Cable is cool on NewsCorp BSkyB probe

VINCE Cable has said there “would need to be a lot of evidence” for him to become involved in NewsCorp’s attempt to acquire BSkyB, in remarks that are sure to alienate anti-Murdoch Liberal Democrats.

As business secretary, Cable could announce an investigation into the takeover on public interest grounds. He would then have the ultimate say on whether it could proceed.

But Cable told City A.M.: “I haven’t taken an official view, but there would need to be a lot of evidence for me to become involved. There is no suggestion that I should intervene.”

Asked if he had any moral objection to Sky News being wholly owned by the company that prints The Times, The Sun, The Sunday Times and The News of the World, Cable replied: “If I answered that I would be prejudicing the outcome of any competition procedures.”

His apparent reluctance to intervene will annoy a large number of Liberal Democrat MPs. They blame NewsCorp’s newspapers, especially The Sun, for eroding the party’s newfound support in the final weeks of the election campaign.

News Corp has proposed it acquire the 61 per cent of shares it doesn’t own in Sky at a price of 700p a share. In the first instance, the European Commission would look at whether the takeover should be blocked.

However the matter could be called back to the UK, either by the Office of Fair Trading or by Cable himself.

The OFT could call for a probe on anti-competition concerns, but Cable would have to announce public interest grounds for an investigation. If he chose to do so, he would have the ultimate say on whether the deal could proceed.

Labour has yet to take an official view on the planned takeover, although it will voice its opposition in the next few weeks.