Government backs NewsCorp’s bid to take over BSkyB

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has given the green light to Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp to take full control of BSkyB, subject to a further public consultation.

Hunt says he is “minded to accept” undertakings to spin off Sky News as part of the proposed NewsCorp bid to take over the 61% of BSkyB it does not already own, in order to address competition concerns.

Sky News is set to be turned into a new publicly listed company that will be independently funded for 10 years.

The culture secretary says additional measures, subject to a further public consultation with a deadline of 8 July, will need to be taken before a final decision is made.

The further undertakings include the need for Sky News board meetings to include an independent director, the requirement for Sky to cross-promote Sky News on its channels and the appointment of a monitoring trustee to ensure NewsCorp complies with the undertakings in the run up to the spin off.

Hunt says: “The regulators have confirmed that the proposed undertakings are still sufficient to ensure media plurality.

“I could have decided to accept the original undertakings but a number of suggestions were made in response to the consultation which could further strengthen the undertakings, particularly around editorial independence, business viability and the articles of association.”

A statement from NewsCorp in response to Hunt’s announcement says: “We will continue to engage constructively with the regulatory process.”

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) received more than 40,000 submissions for its original consultation on the NewsCorp/BSkyB deal.

Hunt also listened to objections on the takeover bid from Trinity Mirror, Guardian Media Group, Telegraph Media Group, Associated News and Media and campaign group Avaaz, who were concerned Rupert Murdoch’s media group could become too dominant in the marketplace.

Avaaz says it plans to hold a demonstration today (30 June) outside the DCMS with a giant carbon fibre Rupert Murdoch wielding puppet versions of Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron to protest against the takeover.

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