Ofcom has published its advice to Jeremy Hunt, Culture Secretary, that finally recommended accepting the Undertakings in Lieu (UILs) offered by News Corp as a condition of approval of its takeover of Sky. Hunt has given approval and nominated a further period of public consultation on his decision through to March 21st.
The letters show Ofcom only agreed to revised UILs in March 1 having been at loggerheads with News over the appointment of an independent chair person for the Newco PLC that will takeover Sky News and in which News will remain a 39 per cent shareholder.
The correspondence also makes it clear that both Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading and very wary about what will happen towards the end of the ten year carriage contract a News Corp-owned BSkyB will make with Newco. Ofcom merely states that under current rules News Corp would have to seek the secretary of state’s approval for a takeover of Newco and it assumes a future minister would consult regulators and the public at the time.
Ofcom says it has advised OFT to consider 10 year commitment as the best it will get and that in the context of the industry this is a long term commitment – and in 10 years technology will mean the whole context of plurality will have moved on significantly. It also re-emphasises its advice the government should conduct a wider review of the whole area of media plurality.