News Corporation‘s bid for BSkybB suffered another setback this morning when Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced he was seeking fresh advice from regulators Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading.
It follows a week of highly damaging developments in the phone-hacking scandal at News Corp – including allegations the phones of murder victims and dead soldiers’ families were hacked – which culminated in the closure of the News of the World yesterday.
In a letter to Ofcom, Hunt said the tabloid’s closure was a ‘significant change to the media landscape”, and asked the regulator whether recent revelations had created ‘additional concerns in respects of plurality’regarding the takeover bid.
News Corp, which also owns The Sun and The Times newspapers in the UK, wants to buy the remaining 61 per cenbt of shares in the company it does not already own.
Ofcom has also been asked by Hunt whether it considers News Corp to be a ‘fit and proper’owner, and whether any new information had come to light in the last week that causes it to “reconsider any part of your previous advice… including the credibility, sustainability or practicalities’of the bid.
In a letter sent to Office of Fair Trading executive director Clive Maxwell, Hunt said: ‘given the well-publicised matters involving the News of the World in the past week, and which have led to the closure of that paper, I should be grateful if you could let me know whether you consider those revelations and allegations cause you to reconsider any part of your previous advice to me, or otherwise give rise to concerns, on the credibility, sustainability and practicalities of the undertaking offered by News Corporation”.
The news comes after Labour leader Ed Miliband yesterday announced plans to hold a Commons vote on whether the takeover decision should be delayed until the criminal investigation into the News of the World is completed.
Miliband is also calling for the takeover to be referred to the Competition Commission.
A consultation on News Corp’s bid ended on 1 July, but after receiving more than 100,000 responses to the proposals Culture Secretary Hunt said it could be months before a decision is made.