Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has confirmed he will refer News Corp’s bid for BSkyB to the Competition Commission. It follows the withdrawal of undertakings by News Corp that would have led to the spin-off of Sky News. In an earlier statement, News Corp said it was willing to engage with the Competition Commission on its proposed acquisition of BSkyB.

“It will mean that the Competition Commission will be able to give further full and exhaustive consideration of this merger taking into account all relevant recent developments,” Mr Hunt told the House of Commons. The referral would delay any acquisition by at least six months, but crucially keeps the deal alive.

News Corp continues to believe that, taking into account the only relevant legal test, its proposed acquisition will not lead to there being insufficient plurality in news provision in the UK.

Following the closure of the News of the World on Sunday, News Corp subsidiary News International now publishes three, rather than four national newspapers, though there are suggestions that The Sun may become a seven-day title.

Only two weeks ago News Corp agreed to strengthen its undertakings that would have led to Sky News being spun off into a separate company.

They included:

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 News’ Articles of Association to be approved by the Secretary of State.