NewsCorp’s BSkyB bid nearer to Competition Commission referral

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has confirmed he intends to refer NewsCorp’s bid to take full control of BSkyB to the Competition Commission.

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The media company is trying to buy the 61% of BSkyB it does not already own but Hunt says the merger could be against public interest in terms of media plurality.

He has given the company extra time to address these concerns and NewsCorp has told Hunt it wishes him to consider special “undertakings in lieu” which it hopes will alleviate his fears and prevent him from referring the matter to the Commission.

Last week it was reported that NewsCorp could be prepared to sell Sky News or other assets in order to avoid a lengthy eight-month review of the bid.

There is concern among rivals that NewsCorp, which already owns UK newspapers The Sun, News of the World, The Times and the Sunday Times, would become too dominant in the marketplace – particularly in the advertising market – should the takeover bid be successful.

In response to the statement issued by the culture secretary today, NewsCorp says its takeover will not lead to insufficient plurality in the news provision in the UK.

NewsCorp adds: “The company has put forward extensive and detailed evidence that the level of plurality in the UK has increased since 2003, when the Communications Act was enacted – and since the ITV plurality review in 2007 when no concerns were found about the suffiency of plurality.”

A report by broadcasting regulator Ofcom had recommended the deal should be investigated by the Competition Commission before it goes ahead.

NewsCorp says Ofcom’s analysis is “deficient in a number of ways” and has made a submission to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport setting out its issues with the report.

Last month the European Commission unconditionally cleared the estimated £7.8bn takeover.

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