Rupert Murdoch’s sprawling media conglomerate News Corp. moved closer to full control of British pay-TV broadcaster BSkyB on Thursday after the government accepted plans to spin off Sky News.
US giant News Corp. undertook in March to hive off the rolling news channel to address competition concerns over its bid to buy the 61-percent of satellite broadcaster BSkyB it does not own.
BSkyB, which has a broadcasting portfolio including live English Premier League football and blockbuster movies, is holding out for more than the £7.8 billion ($12.5 billion, 8.6 billion euros) offered by News Corp.
Britain’s Culture and Media Minister Jeremy Hunt indicated on Thursday that plans to turn Sky News into a new company had allayed fears that Murdoch was gaining too much power in the media sector.
However he added in a statement that he would extend consultations after deciding to strengthen government proposals aimed at tackling competition fears.
The new consultation period will run until July 8, after which he must decide whether to wave through the deal or refer it to the Competition Commission watchdog.
Hunt proposed on Thursday that Sky News should have an independent director with senior editorial experience, and a monitoring trustee to ensure News Corp. complies with the terms of the deal.
“I am aware of the huge interest in the proposed merger and am grateful to those who responded to the consultation,” Hunt said in the statement.
In response, News Corp. said it would continue to engage constructively with the regulatory process.
It launched its bid for full control of BSkyB in 2010, triggering fierce opposition to any deal from a host of British broadcasters and newspapers.
European regulators have however cleared the way for the controversial takeover of BSkyB, which has ten million household subscribers.
News Corp. — which controls such major media outlets as Fox television and The Wall Street Journal — currently owns 39 percent of BSkyB.
News Corp. on Wednesday agreed to sell Myspace for a fraction of its purchase price, ending Murdoch’s tie-up with a one-time social networking star that ended up being eclipsed by Facebook.
Myspace, which was bought by News Corp. in 2005 for $580 million, was bought by Specific Media, a digital ad-targeting platform, for an undisclosed amount.