At least 19 percent of BSkyB investors failed to back the re-election of chairman James Murdoch on Tuesday, in protest over the former chief executive's handling of a phone hacking scandal that has damaged the family name.
The percentage of shareholders who voted against Murdoch does not take into account those who withheld their vote, which means the final figure could be higher when it is confirmed in a regulatory filing later in the day.
Several shareholders told Reuters ahead of the key annual meeting that they would vote against the 38-year-old because they wanted a truly independent chairman rather than an executive of News Corp, which owns 39 percent of BSkyB.
Murdoch is chairman of News International, News Corp's British newspaper arm, and deputy chief operating officer at News Corp, where he survived a massive protest vote against his membership of the board last month.
News Corp failed earlier this year in a bid to buy the rest of BSkyB.
James Murdoch, who was well regarded as CEO of BSkyB between 2003 and 2007, was expected to win re-election to the role, thanks to the support of family and allies, but analysts and advisory bodies have been keen to see how many would vote against him.
Industry analysts said before the meeting that they expected Murdoch to remain at the company, regardless of the size of the protest vote.
News Corp had to withdraw its $12 billion offer for BSkyB in July following revelations that people working for a News Corp weekend tabloid, the News of the World, had hacked into the phones of celebrities and murder victims to secure stories.
Murdoch was not running the newspaper division when the hacking took place but critics have accused him of failing to appreciate the scale of the problem and the impact it could have.
Investors are now concerned that the damage done to the family name could spread to BSkyB in the eyes of politicians, regulators and even consumers. So far, significant numbers of BSkyB customers have not switched away.
(Reporting by Kate Holton and Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Sophie Walker)