The big match - Murdoch v Branson
Will Whitehorn, Richard Branson's corporate affairs director and right hand person, knows my guilty secret: I've been in journalism an embarrassingly long time. More than 20 years ago we would drink too much robust red wine with disreputable City folk in the bustling Long Room, opposite the old floor of the Stock Exchange, he as an apprentice spin doctor, me as cub reporter.
So he'll forgive my teasing: what on earth was he thinking when saying in today's FT that there was a victory for "morality" in the launch of Ofcom's unprecedented "public interest" probe of BSkyB's acquisition of a 17.9 per cent stake in ITV.
Virgin Media - in which Branson is the largest shareholder - still feels sore that Sky's purchase of the ITV stake stymied its hopes of taking over ITV. So I suppose morality might have been the winner yesterday if you happen to view Virgin as a saintly charitable organisations engaged in selfless sacrifice to better the world. But does that ring true with you?
That said, there's a plausible case that Sky's stake in ITV raises competition questions, such as whether it could reduce the competitive tension in auctions for sports rights, or independent TV productions, or even movies (that would be possible if ITV felt inhibited from bidding against Sky as its largest shareholder). That's an issue for the Office of Fair Trading, rather than Ofcom.
In theory the Sky stake in ITV could have an impact on "plurality", the number and diversity of voices available to viewers.
However the DTI's statement yesterday when referring the matter to Ofcom was strikingly short of anything that looked like an argument or evidence, apart from a cursory nod to news coverage. And there was no attempt by Alistair Darling, the Trade and Industry Secretary, to explain how a reference to Ofcom was consistent with the clause in the Communications Act allowing groups like BSkyB - whose de facto parent, News Corp, has huge British newspaper interests - to acquire up to 20 per cent of ITV.
So I have sympathy with those who say that the DTI reference to Ofcom simply buys Mr Darling a bit of time before having to make the horrendous choice for any senior Labour politician of whether to back Branson or BSkyB, which is the most important European television interests of the Murdoch family.
The battle between Sky and Virgin is a commercial struggle between two ferociously competitive businesses. They both want the biggest and most profitable slug of a media market that encompasses broadband, mobile phones, fixed line phones and TV.
Both can be seen as pioneers, as businesses that have taken huge commercial risks to bring new services to consumers. The difference between them is partly one of image.
Richard Branson has a genius for painting himself as the plucky underdog, as righteous Luke Skywalker against big bad Darth Vader - who at different times in his glittering career has taken the form of British Airways, Camelot and latterly as Rupert and James Murdoch, chair and chief executive of BSkyB.
In branding terms, he is the non pareil. Branson's global business interests are - with the exception of Virgin Media, which is listed - as private and opaque in financial terms as many businesses owned by private equity. But while private equity is everywhere decried for the secretive way it earns vast profits, Branson is feted as the entrepreneurial equivalent of Helen Mirren.
But in the Murdochs he is up against fearsome competition. It'll be his toughest ever challenge. The current spat over how much Virgin should pay to screen Sky's basic package of channels is just the start of something big and very bloody.
Murdoch v Branson: it's real, it's personal, it'll run all year, it's the best show in town, and it'll affect how millions of us communicate, receive information and are entertained.
Here's a tip. If you read stories that James Murdoch is going back to the US to run the family business, News Corporation, ignore them. He's staying at Sky till the struggle for supremacy against Virgin is settled.