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28/01/2011

SkyB Merger Competition Commission Referral Paused

The UK's Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is considering referring the proposed merger of News Corporation and BSkyB to the Competition Commission (CC) - but has delayed the process to allow for fresh representations.
"On the evidence available, I consider that it may be the case that the merger may operate against the public interest in media plurality," he said this week.
But Hunt said that before referring the matter to the CC, he was willing to give the companies the chance to prove that the merger would not be a threat to media plurality.
News Corporation is willing to commit to that, said Mr Hunt, so he will now ask the Office of Fair Trading for its input and will ask Ofcom for its advice.
"Having informed them of the process I then wrote to News Corporation and BSkyB on 7 January enclosing a copy of Ofcom's Report," he said.
"In this letter I explained that I was minded to refer the case to the Competition Commission but that I would receive written, and if necessary oral, representations from them if they wanted to challenge my thinking.
"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," he said.
"News Corporation says that it wishes me to consider undertakings in lieu which it contends could sufficiently alleviate the concerns I have such that I should accept the undertakings instead of making a reference.
"If this process produces undertakings in lieu which I believe will prevent or otherwise mitigate the merger from having effects adverse to the public interest, and which I propose to accept, I will then publish the undertakings in lieu and (as required under the Act) begin a formal 15 day consultation period during which time all interested parties will be able to express their views," he continued, noting there is as yet no clear timetable.
"It is in the nature of this process that I cannot give clear dates for each step as we move forward.
"My main concern is not to work to an arbitrary timetable but to ensure that I reach my decision in a fair and even-handed way which is transparent and ensures that all concerns are properly considered."
(BMcC/GK)
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