British government refers NewsCorp's BSkyB bid to regulator

4th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

British Business Secretary Vince Cable said on Thursday that he has referred News Corp's bid for control of pay-TV giant BSkyB to media regulator Ofcom over concerns about concentration in the media sector.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. had bid 7.8 billion pounds (9.0 billion euros, 12.6 billion dollars) in June for full control of BSkyB, which screens live English Premier League football and has a 24-hour news channel, but this was rejected by the group as too low.

Cable's intervention comes after rival British media groups, including newspaper publishers and broadcasters, had objected to the deal.

"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," Cable said in a statement on Thursday.

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

News Corporation, which publishes Britain's The Times and The Sun newspapers, already owns about 39 percent of BSkyB, making it the group's largest shareholder.

Ofcom will now probe the deal and report to the government by the end of December, according to the statement from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

"The notice requires that Ofcom investigates the public interest consideration of media plurality that arises from News Corp's proposal and submits a report by 31 December," the department said.

"Owing to the size of the acquisition, the European Commission will investigate the proposed acquisition on the grounds of competition and it will announce its own decision by 8 December," it added.

Following publication of the Ofcom findings, Cable will then decide whether to refer the News Corp. deal to Britain's Competition Commission.

Other News Corporation assets include Fox television, The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, the 20th Century Fox movie studio, Dow Jones and Sky Italia.

© 2010 AFP

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