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Murdoch's global satellite plan resurrected

LONDON - Rupert Murdoch could yet realise his ambition of creating a global satellite TV empire, as doubts about whether EchoStar will be allowed to buy the General Motors-owned DirecTV satellite broadcaster in the US emerge.

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Murdoch's US dreams were shattered at the end of last year when he was forced to walk away from the deal after EchoStar bid $18.3bn (£11.3bn) for DirecTV.

The EchoStar victory was a serious blow to Murdoch, who already owns satellite TV businesses in the UK, Latin America, Australia, India and Japan. The US was the missing piece to his global empire.

However, almost a year since EchoStar clinched the deal, it is no closer to owning its larger rival as regulators have yet to rule on whether they will allow the merger to go ahead.

Speculation indicates that US regulators will block the deal as a merged DirecTV-EchoStar would face no competition in the direct-to-home satellite TV market.

It is thought that Murdoch could have had a large part to play in the regulator's hesitancy to make a decision. He has been lobbying Washington to highlight that a merged EchoStar DirecTV would have a monopoly in rural areas where no cable networks operate.

Murdoch is also thought to be preparing BSkyB chief executive Tony Ball, who recently resigned from the board of Marks & Spencer, to take on the role of heading up Sky Global Networks, the holding company for News Corporation's satellite TV operations.

If EchoStar is stopped from taking over DirecTV, it is expected that Murdoch could pick up the prized DirecTV for around 25% lower than EchoStar's offer.

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