Belfast Telegraph

Cable refers News Corp's £12bn BskyB takeover bid to regulator

Business Secretary Vince Cable said he was intervening in News Corp's £12bn bid to take control of broadcasting giant BSkyB and would refer the plans to regulator Ofcom.

Mr Cable stepped in on public interest grounds following mounting pressure from rival media groups after Rupert Murdoch's News Corp made an offer for the 61% of BSkyB that it does not already own.

The intervention notice served requires Ofcom to investigate the proposals and report back by December 31.

Mr Cable said he made the move after submissions and information regarding News Corp's approach.

British media groups - including national newspaper owners and broadcasters - recently joined forces to petition Mr Cable to block the plans over fears the deal posed a threat to competition and media plurality.

News Corp's rivals argue the takeover would create an organisation of unrivalled power in the UK media sector.

If the deal went ahead, News Corp would have a dominant position in newspapers, owning UK titles including The Times and The Sun, while also having full ownership of a pay TV company - an empire with an estimated turnover of £7.5bn.

Mr Cable said: "On the basis of the information and submissions available to me, I have decided that it is appropriate to issue an intervention notice in this particular case.

"The independent experts at Ofcom will now investigate and report to me on the media plurality issues that may arise from this proposed acquisition."

The European Commission was notified formally yesterday of the bid and will launch a probe looking at competition issues. It will publish its report on December 8.

Mr Cable will decide whether to refer the matter to the UK's Competition Commission once he has Ofcom's report at the end of the year.

Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey, one of the media bosses who wrote to Mr Cable urging him to intervene, welcomed the news.

She said: "News Corporation already controls 37% of the national newspaper market and if its plans go ahead it would also control a huge chunk of the pay TV market.

"That's bad news for consumers because the proposed takeover of BSkyB increases the dominance of News Corporation and reduces the plurality of news sources."