International Papers

Murdoch Stymied?  

    The Italian papers Thursday reported an early setback to Rupert Murdoch’s new efforts to establish a European media empire based in Milan, Italy. In an interview that appeared last week in one of his British papers, the Times, Murdoch described his ambition to get a big stake in the European media market. He has established a European company, News Corp Europe, through which he hopes to set up partnerships with media companies across the continent. But what his interviewer described as “the first and most significant part of a new attack on the continental European market”–a joint venture with Telecom Italia, the Italian national telecommunications company, in digital satellite TV in Italy–was reported to have run into difficulties.
       Under pressure from the Italian government, which fears his ambitions, Telecom Italia was reported to have effectively reneged on its understanding with Murdoch and to be holding talks with other potential partners. The Italian Communications Minister Salvatore Cardinale said in an interview Thursday with La Repubblica of Rome that Murdoch’s attitudes “lead one to believe that he wants to take everything, starting with football rights.” The Financial Times of London reported Thursday that the deal would have included Murdoch acquiring pay-TV rights to all Italian first division and second division soccer matches for five years.

n another interview with the conservative Milan newspaper Il Giornale, the Italian communications minister said he feared that Murdoch’s “firepower” meant there was a risk that his new Italy-based company might get into a monopolistic position. Illustrating the difficulties and sensitivity surrounding broadcasting regulation in Europe, Le Monde of Paris led Thursday on the controversy and delays over a proposed new law for reorganizing public service broadcasting in France. In an editorial, it blamed Prime Minister Lionel Jospin for “the general confusion.”
       In Britain, the press was entirely dominated Thursday by a domestic story that has attracted little attention abroad–a dramatic split in the Conservative Party between its national leader, William Hague, and its leader in the House of Lords, Lord Cranborne, heir to a 400-year-old political dynasty. Hague summarily dismissed Cranborne Wednesday after learning that he had reached a private deal with Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair for a temporary reprieve for 91 hereditary peers instead of the planned immediate elimination of all hereditary peers. ” Tories in Turmoil,” said the Guardian; “Hague on the Ropes,” said the Sun; “Humiliated,” said the Daily Mirror–and the rest of the British national press agreed.

l Mundo of Madrid led Thursday with a story saying that conservative Prime Minister José Maria Aznar has declared “war on the new Franco-German socialist axis,” which is pushing for tax harmonization throughout the European Union, against the opposition of both Britain and Spain. This proposal, which has caused a great outcry in the largely Euroskeptic British press, has brought the left-leaning British government and the conservative Spanish one together in an alliance against the countries with whom Blair is supposed to be pursuing, together with President Clinton, the ill-defined political “Third Way.” A summit meeting in France Thursday between Blair and French President Jacques Chirac was reported on the front page of the conservative Le Figaro of Paris to be focusing on closer defense cooperation between the two countries, a matter on which both countries could agree.
       In Israel both the liberal Ha’aretz and the conservative Jerusalem Post led Thursday, 10 days before Clinton’s planned visit there, with reports that the Israeli government has said it will not carry out the next stage of its withdrawal from the West Bank if the Palestinian Authority does not halt violence, accept that prisoners who have committed terrorist acts will not be released, and renounce its intention unilaterally to declare a Palestinian state.
       Ha’aretz’s main editorial was devoted to this week’s international conference in Washington on the return to Jewish Holocaust survivors of property plundered from them by the Nazis and their allies. Urging quick action, Ha’aretz said, “The goal should be clear: to assist, with all possible speed, the aged and ill Holocaust survivors to improve their quality of life in their final years.”