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Rupert Murdoch's bid for UTV radio assets moves closer

By Staff Reporter

The sale of Belfast's U105 and 20 other ex-UTV radio stations to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp in a £220m deal has cleared another hurdle.

The Republic's Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has given its approval to the takeover of the Wireless Group by News Corp, first announced at the end of June.

Wireless Group's Ireland division, Radio Ireland, includes seven radio stations, broadcasting from Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Drogheda. Among the stations are LMFM, which covers Louth and Monaghan, and the well-known Dublin stations FM104 and Q102.

The consumer body cleared the proposed transaction whereby News Corp UK & Ireland Limited, an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of News Corporation, would acquire sole control of Wireless Group plc, which also owns the popular TalkSport channel. Wireless shareholders will receive 315p per share.

The takeover prompted Northern Ireland-born presenter Colin Murray to resign from TalkSport last month, saying he will not work with The Sun, which is published by News Corporation.

Mr Murray is a fervent supporter of Liverpool Football Club, many of whose fans boycott the paper over its coverage of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

When the sale is complete it will signal the final chapter in the break-up of UTV. The broadcaster was effectively split in two this year when ITV bought the TV division in a £100m deal.

The remaining radio assets were renamed Wireless Group plc, which is still based at UTV's Havelock House headquarters on Ormeau Road, Belfast, renting its offices and studios from the building's new owner, ITV.

Its local station, U105, has 195,000 listeners per week.

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