Government asks Ofcom to review News Corp's BSkyB bid

Out-Law News | 04 Nov 2010 | 1:36 pm | 1 min. read

The Government has asked media regulator to assess the affect on media plurality of the proposal from Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation that it take BSkyB private.

The newspaper publisher already owns 39.1% of the satellite broadcasting company and has made an £8.2 billion offer for the remaining shares of the company, which are listed on the public markets.

BSkyB's independent directors have rejected the 675p per share offer and say they will only consider an offer of 800p per share or more. They have agreed to allow the regulatory process to continue, though, and will negotiate later on price.

Secretary of State for Business Vince Cable has issued an intervention in the deal under the Enterprise Act. He has asked Ofcom to assess whether the deal will create too great a concentration of media ownership in the UK.

"The Secretary of State believes that it is or may be the case that the public interest consideration specified in section 58 of the Act concerned with the sufficient plurality of persons with control of media enterprises is relevant to a consideration of the merger situation," said the order.

Ofcom will only consider the impact of the proposed merger on media ownership. If the matter is referred to the Competition Commission it, too, could only consider the media ownership issues, a statement from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said. It said that only the European Commission can consider the broader competition aspects.

Ofcom will report on the impact on media ownership by 31 December. The European Commission will be responsible for any general competition investigation because of the size of the proposed deal and will report by 8 December, BIS said.

"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," said Cable. "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 Corp owns The Times, The Sunday Times, the Sun and the News Of The World newspapers.