Sky takeover bid decision delayed by Hunt

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt kept the door ajar for News Corporation's planned takeover of BSkyB today when he delayed a decision on whether to refer the deal for a full-blown competition inquiry.

In the wake of findings from media regulator Ofcom, Mr Hunt said the proposed takeover might be against the public interest in media plurality and he was minded to refer it to the Competition Commission.

But before he referred the case, Mr Hunt said he was prepared to listen to special "undertakings in lieu" from News Corp as it sought to allay his concerns about the merger.

Recent media reports suggested that News Corp has told the Government it might be prepared to make concessions to avoid a lengthy consultation, with separating Sky News from BSkyB one option said to be under review.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, which also owns newspapers including The Sun and The Times, made an £8 billion approach in June to buy the 61% of BSkyB it does not already own.

But a report by media watchdog Ofcom recommended that the proposed deal should be investigated further by the Commission.

Mr Hunt said: "News Corporation says that it wishes me to consider undertakings in lieu which it contends could sufficiently alleviate the concerns I have, such that I should accept the undertakings instead of making a reference."

Mr Hunt said he would ask Ofcom whether any of the measures suggested by News Corp address its concerns over media plurality and requested that the Office of Fair Trading is involved in the process.

If the undertakings are accepted, a 15-day consultation period will commence, when parties will be able to express their views.

There has been a storm of protest from other major media players, as companies behind the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Guardian and Daily Mirror, together with bosses at broadcasters BBC, Channel 4 and BT, voiced fears that a deal would pose a threat to competition and media plurality.

News Corporation said it believed Ofcom's analysis to be deficient in a number of ways and added that the level of plurality in the UK has increased since 2003, when the Communications Act was enacted.

The media group said: "While Ofcom acknowledges that the combination of News Corporation and BSkyB would have a minimal impact on consumers and would not enhance News Corporation's ability to influence the news agenda, it nevertheless concludes that the transaction may be expected to operate against the public interest.

"News Corporation has made a submission to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport setting out a number of issues with the Ofcom report. However, in the interests of progressing to a transaction, News Corporation has submitted an undertaking that we believe addresses Ofcom's concerns.

"We will continue to engage constructively with the regulatory process."







Ofcom defended itself today against News Corp's allegations that its report was flawed.



An Ofcom spokesman said: "News Corporation alleges that Ofcom did not have an open mind when considering the issue of plurality referred to it by the Secretary of State. This allegation is without foundation."



Ofcom's report, which was submitted on December 31 but made public for the first time today, also said there was significant scepticism from stakeholders as to the effectiveness of behavioural remedies as a means of guaranteeing the editorial independence of Sky News from News Corp.



The report said: "This scepticism was based partially on general concerns about the effectiveness of behavioural remedies, but also on the perceived outcome of specific commitments given during previous transactions, in particular following the acquisition by News Corp of the Times and Sunday Times."



It also called for a wide-ranging review of the industry in relation to media plurality.



News Corp's move to take full control of BSkyB began in June when the company unveiled an offer valuing the business at around £12 billion.



The proposal was rejected by Sky's board on valuation grounds but it agreed to work on regulatory issues in order to clear the way for any future merger deal.



In November, Business Secretary Vince Cable ordered Ofcom to carry out a media plurality test on the deal. However, authority for dealing with the case was handed to Mr Hunt in December after Mr Cable's comments to undercover reporters.



Mr Cable told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme today: "The key is that this is a very formal, quite complex, legal process that has to be followed in cases of this kind and the now-responsible minister will be doing that and that is the safeguard of the public interest."

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbridge Wells - £32,000

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbrid...

Derivatives Risk Commodities Business Analyst /Market Risk

£600 - £800 per day: Harrington Starr: Derivatives Risk Commodities Business A...

Power & Gas Business Analyst / Subject Matter Expert - Contract

£600 - £800 per day: Harrington Starr: Power & Gas Business Analyst/Subject Ma...

Infrastructure Lead, (Trading, VCE, Converged, Hyper V)

£600 - £900 per day: Harrington Starr: Infrastructure Lead, (Trading infrastru...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering