Belfast Telegraph

Murdoch cleared for takeover of BSkyB

Moves by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation to take control of BSkyB cleared a key hurdle following approval from European regulators.

News Corp, which owns The Sun and The Times, wants to buy the 61% stake of the broadcaster it does not already own for £7.8bn.

The European Commission (EC) approved the deal, but the group still faces the scrutiny of UK industry regulator Ofcom, which will decide by December 31 whether to refer the bid to the Competition Commission.

But the approval of the EC was overshadowed when Prime Minister David Cameron ruled that Business Secretary Vince Cable would have no further role in deciding on the proposed takeover.

Mr Cable was sidelined in favour of Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt after he made indiscreet comments to the media about Rupert Murdoch.

The EC, however, was positive about the implications of any merger.

Joaquin Almunia, EC vice-president and commissioner for competition, said: "I am confident this merger will not weaken competition in the UK. The effects on media plurality are a matter for the UK authorities."

EU officials considered the same matters which will be scrutinised by Ofcom, including whether News Corp publications like The Sun and The Times, would benefit from closer links to Sky.

It also considered whether there could be 'bundling' deals offered to consumers, which would incorporate newspaper subscriptions and access to sky channels.

The plans were referred to Ofcom on public interest grounds amid fears the deal involving the Sky News owner posed a threat to media plurality. But the EC said the deal would not impede competition in Europe in broadcast, print media and advertising.

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