Britain gives News Corp. more time over BSkyB bid

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Britain's government on Tuesday said it would allow Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. more time to argue its case for a full takeover of British broadcaster BSkyB despite state concerns over competition.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt added that he was still likely to refer the case to Britain's Competition Commission.

BSkyB is a pay-TV satellite broadcaster that screens live coverage of English Premiership football matches, as well as blockbuster movies and the Sky News channel.

British Prime Minister David Cameron handed Hunt responsibility for the BSkyB decision last month, stripping Business Secretary Vince Cable of the role after he was taped by undercover reporters saying he had "declared war" on Murdoch.

The latest development also comes one month after telecommunications regulator Ofcom handed its report on BSkyB's proposed takeover to the coalition government.

"On the evidence available, I consider that it may be the case that the merger may operate against the public interest in media plurality," Hunt said in a statement published on Tuesday.

"However, before doing so it is right that I consider any undertakings in lieu offered by any merging party which have the potential to prevent or otherwise mitigate the potential threats to media plurality identified in the Ofcom report."

Hunt said that he had held meetings with both News Corp. and Ofcom regarding the potential takeover.

"As a result of these meetings and my consideration of the Ofcom report and subsequent submissions from the parties involved I still intend to refer the merger to the Competition Commission," the minister added.

In response, BSkyB said it would "continue to cooperate with the ongoing regulatory process."

News Corp. had in June bid £7.8 billion ($12.2 billion, 9.1 billion euros) for the 61 percent of BSkyB it does not own.

European regulators have since cleared the controversial takeover. However there is fierce opposition to the deal from a host of British broadcasters and newspapers.

Cable had meanwhile referred the proposed deal to Ofcom, citing public interest grounds. But he was stripped of responsibility over the deal following his unguarded comments to undercover reporters from the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

He was reprimanded both by Conservative leader Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who heads Cable's Liberal Democrat party.

© 2011 AFP

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