News Corp nears BSkyB remedy

News Corp is nearing agreement with UK regulators over a remedy for concerns about its bid for satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting, reports the Financial Times citing people familiar with the process.

Discussions have taken place with the UK’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT), with News Corp reportedly now closer to satisfying objections that combining full ownership of BSkyB with its other assets would reduce the diversity of news provision in the country. Two people familiar with the discussions suggest the remedy is “structural” rather than “behavioural”.

This could mean that rather than have to offer assurances as to how to keep  BSkyB’s Sky News operations and its News International titles separate, News Corp is suggesting ways in which it could surrender control of the 24-hour satellite news channel which would satisfy the OFT.

If UK Media Secretary Jeremy Hunt were to accept such a remedy, it would be put out for a 15-day consultation. If this resulted in no change to his decision, News Corp would avoid a lengthy review by  the Competition Commission.

Following a recommendation from comms regulator Ofcom, which had been asked to look at any potential bid on media plurality grounds, Hunt said on January 25 that he intended to refer the proposed bid for a full investigation by the Commission, but had agreed to let News Corp talk to regulators about a possible remedy.

It is understood that any resultant remedy could be announced next week, with News Corp keen to complete a deal as soon as possible and make concessions on the control of Sky News accordingly.

News Corp offered 700p (€0.818) a share for the 60.9 per cent of BSkyB it does not already own, in June 2010, but independent directors rejected the offer at the time, suggesting that 800p was the least they would consider.

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