British government gives News Corp more time over BSkyB bid

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Britain announced Tuesday that it will allow Rupert Murdoch's News Corp time to provide undertakings over its takeover of BSkyB, but would likely refer the matter to the nation's competition regulator.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement he intended to refer NewsCorp's bid for full control of BSkyB to the Competition Commission -- if the satellite broadcaster failed to allay his concerns.

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 reporters saying he had "declared war" on Murdoch.

The latest development comes one month after telecommunications regulator Ofcom handed its report on BSkyB's proposed takeover to the 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," the Culture Secretary said in a statement.

"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, who said he had held meetings with News Corp and Ofcom this month, added that he would request a probe by the Competition Commission, which is responsible for investigating mergers and takeovers.

"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," he said.

In response, BSkyB said in a short statement that the group would "continue to cooperate with the ongoing regulatory process".

Back in June, media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation had bid £7.8 billion ($12.2 billion, 9.1 billion euros) for the 61 percent of the Sky News broadcaster that it does not already own.

However, Cable 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.

Cable 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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