Rupert Murdoch 'offers to sell Sky News'

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp has offered to sell Sky News to allay concerns about the media giant's takeover bid for British Sky Broadcasting, it was reported tonight.

The sale is understood to be a move to reassure Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is considering whether to refer News Corp's proposed £7.5 billion bid for the shares in BSkyB it does not already own to the Competition Commission, the BBC said.

Mr Hunt is yet to make a decision to approve the bid for the 61% stake in BSkyB, the Department for Culture, Media and Sports said. However, it is understood a decision could be made as early as tomorrow.

Mr Hunt delayed a decision on whether to refer the deal for a full-blown competition inquiry in January, after media regulator Ofcom suggested the move might be against the public interest in media plurality.

Mr Hunt said he would allow News Corp more time to gather information which might allay his concerns.

News Corp, which also owns newspapers including The Sun and The Times, first made its 700p a share approach in June.

BSkyB's directors rejected this approach and said an offer closer to more than 800p per share, or around £1 billion more in total, was appropriate.

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

The media giant has since made a proposal designed to remedy the harm identified by Ofcom from the deal, the BBC claimed.

The company is understood to have offered to sell Sky News as well as subsidise the channel for more than £20 million, according to the report.

In January, BSkyB added to pressure by revealing a 26% jump in profits. In a period when the satellite company broke through the 10 million customer mark, BSkyB said turnover rose 15% to £3.2 billion while operating profits hit £520 million for the six months to the end of December.