Much as expected Jeremy Hunt, the UK Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, has all but rubberstamped the plans of Rupert Murdochís News Corp to buy the remaining shares in BSkyB that it didnít own.
Huntís department has published the results of the consultation launched on 3 March on the undertakings in lieu offered by News Corp in relation to their proposed merger with BSkyB. The department published subsequent advice from UK broadcasting and telecoms regulator Ofcom and the UKís office of fair trading (OFT) who had investigated the controversy.
News Corpís action has been bitterly contested by virtually all of its competitors in publishing and broadcasting including Trinity Mirror, the Guardian Media Group, the Telegraph Media Group, Associated News and Media, Slaughter and May and Avaaz who lobbied Hunt as part of the consultation invitation in March.
As part of this process, and to address fears of a lack of media plurality a take over would bring, News Corp proposed that Sky News was spun off as a separate company, operating independently from BSkyB.
Hunt has now revealed that the consultation has produced no new information to cause Ofcom and the OFT to change their earlier advice that the undertakings in lieu addressed Ofcom's media plurality concerns and were viable for 10 years. However, Hunt has now published a revised set of undertakings for consultation, which he regards as more robust.
These include the need for Sky News board meetings to include an independent director with senior editorial and/or journalistic expertise if decisions on editorial matters are to be made; the appointment of a monitoring trustee whose main role is to ensure that News Corp complies with the undertakings in the run up to spin-off; a requirement for Sky to continue to cross-promote Sky News on its channels; a requirement for Sky Newsí Articles of Association to be approved by the Secretary of State.
Hunt said: ďThe regulators have confirmed that the proposed undertakings are still sufficient to ensure media plurality. I could have decided to accept the original undertakings but a number of suggestions were made in response to the consultation which could further strengthen the undertakings, particularly around editorial independence, business viability and the articles of association. I am therefore proposing some changes to the undertakings and I will now hold a further public consultation.Ē
The new consultation period on the revised undertakings will run until midday Friday 8 July.