Belfast Telegraph

Hunt buys time over BSkyB takeover decision

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

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

But before he referred the case, Mr Hunt said he would listen to special "undertakings in lieu" from News Corp.

Recent media reports suggested 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, owns newspapers including The Sun and The Times, made an £8bn approach in June to buy the 61% of BSkyB it does not already own. But a report by 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 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 measures suggested by News Corp address 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 companies behind the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Guardian and Daily Mirror, together with broadcasters BBC, Channel 4 and BT, who voiced fears that a deal would pose a threat to competition and media plurality.