Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has reportedly offered to dispose of Sky News in order to gain approval for the media giant’s takeover bid for British Sky Broadcasting.
The move is being made to reassure Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is set to decide whether to refer News Corp’s proposed £7.5 billion bid for the shares in BSkyB it does not already own to the Competition Commission, the BBC said.
It is understood that Hunt’s decision on the bid for the 61% stake in BSkyB could be made today.
Hunt delayed the decision on whether to refer the deal for a full-blown competition inquiry in January, after media regulator Ofcom suggested the move might be against the public interest in media plurality.
Hunt said he would allow News Corp more time to gather information which might allay his concerns.
Rival media groups want the takeover blocked on the grounds that such a deal would pose a threat to competition and have warned they will use “all legal avenues” in the event of an “unsatisfactory arrangement”.
According to the BBC, News Corp would either sell outright, or else separate off the 24-hour news channel. This, is claims, would be enough to get the green light from Hunt and head off a lengthy competition probe.
News Corp, which also owns newspapers including The Sun and The Times, first made its 700p a share approach last June.
BSkyB’s directors rejected this approach and said an offer closer to more than 800p per share, or around £1 billion more in total, was appropriate.
An alliance of media groups, which consists of BT, Guardian Media Group, Associated Newspapers, Trinity Mirror, Northcliffe Media and Telegraph Media Group, said in a statement: “If the purported remedy leaves Sky News dependent on News Corporation for its money that will not be true independence.
“Smoke and mirrors will not deal with the plurality concerns expressed by so many.
“A lot hangs on the fine print of the offer from News Corporation. We will oppose any unsatisfactory arrangement and consider all legal avenues available to us.”
In January, BSkyB revealed a 26% jump in profits. In a period when the satellite company broke through the 10 million customer mark, BSkyB said turnover rose 15% to £3.2 billion while operating profits hit £520 million for the six months to the end of December.
BSkyB and Hunt’s Department for Culture Media and Sport declined to comment.