BSkyB’s ITV acquisition under further scrutiny

Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) have recommended that the government look further at BSkyB’s acquisition of 17.9% shareholdng in ITV.The media regulator†believes that there are public interest issues “in relation to sufficient plurality of news provision for both cross media and television news in the UK”.

Meanwhile, the OFT has urged the purchase be referred to the Competition Commission.

Both bodies handed in reports to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) today, two months after secretary of state Alistair Darling issued a special intervention notice.

Darling is expected to announce whether to refer the case to the Competition Commission by May 26.

Sky spent nearly £1bn on November 17 buying the stake in rival ITV. Many saw the move as a “spoiler tactic” to prevent cable group NTL – now rebranded as Virgin Media – from buying or merging with the commercial broadcaster.

In January the OFT reported a provisional view that Sky might have aquired a “material influence” over ITV. Meanwhile, Ofcom was tasked to examine whether a change in shareholding at ITV amounted to a change of control, which would have an effect on the broadcaster’s licence commitments.

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