BRUSSELS — European regulators have cleared the controversial £7.8-billion takeover offer by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. for pay-TV giant BSkyB.
The EU green light is purely concerned with competition issues, given the two companies have limited direct crossover. However the takeover remains subject to hot political debate given the highly concentrated nature of mass-media ownership in Britain.
The European Commission’s findings “are without prejudice to the ongoing investigation by the competent UK authorities of whether the proposed transaction is compatible with the UK interest in media plurality,” a statement underlined.
“The UK remains free to decide whether or not to take appropriate measures to protect its legitimate interest in media plurality.”
News Corp. told the EU earlier this month it was prepared to change the terms of its $12-billion offer for the 61 percent of the Sky News broadcaster that it does not already own.
The deal has raised hackles in some quarters that News Corp., which owns a stable of newspapers including daily market leader The Sun and The Times, would have too much control of the media.
BSkyB spokeswoman Bella Vuillermoz said the takeover target “welcomes the European Commission’s decision to approve the proposal without a further phase two review.”
She added it “continues to co-operate with the UK regulatory process,” due to reach conclusions by the end of December.
The heads of the companies behind the right-leaning Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail and left-leaning Guardian and Daily Mirror, as well as the heads of the BBC and other broadcasters, have lobbied the Business Secretary Vince Cable to block the deal.
BSkyB notably screens English Premiership football.
Australian-born US citizen Murdoch’s News Corp., which has significant pay-TV interests in Italy and Germany also, is also behind 20th Century Fox Hollywood film studio, a string of television channels such as Fox and National Geographic and other top media outlets like the Wall Street Journal.
The tycoon’s son James Murdoch is both a senior executive at News Corp. and chairman of BSkyB.