NEWS Corp yesterday won full approval to bid for the 61 per cent of Sky it does not already own.
Culture minister Jeremy Hunt accepted an eleventh hour News Corp concession that it would spin-off Sky News into a separate, publicly-traded entity, in order to counter media plurality concerns.
Hunt said he accepted the terms offered by News Corp after it addressed a string of issues raised by media regulator Ofcom.
The decision will save the bid being subject to a lengthy Competition Commission ruling that would have lasted at least six months.
Hunt said: “The undertakings offered would ensure that shareholdings in Sky News would remain unchanged, and indeed offer it more independence from News Corp than it currently has.
“Throughout this process I have been very aware of the potential controversy surrounding this merger. Nothing is more precious to me than the free and independent press for which this country is famous the world over.”
An Ofcom spokesman said: “We are pleased that News Corp has agreed in the proposed undertakings to place editorial independence and integrity at the heart of ‘NewCo’ and to underpin this with arrangements that secure full independent governance.”
The decision was slammed by an alliance of media owners who say the move will give Murdoch too much power. A spokesman for the group, which includes Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers, Trinity Mirror, BT and the owners of The Daily Telegraph, said it is now considering challenging the ruling in the courts.
Vince Cable, who was axed from the decision-making process after promising to “wage war” on Murdoch to an undercover reporter, declined to comment yesterday.
The Murdoch empire has yet to be subject to a full Competition Commission for any of its media acquisitions. However, the Times newspapers have an independent editorial board in place.
Last month Sky saw its profits soar 40 per cent year-on-year for its second fiscal quarter as it added an extra 140,000 new customers. Revenue for the period was up 15 per cent to £1.66bn. Net profit hit £179m.