Regulator Delays Decision Over BSkyB's Stake in ITV

19 September 2007

LONDON: The controversial issue of BSkyB's 17.9% stake in Britain's largest commercial broadcaster, ITV, has taxed the resources of the nation's Competition Commission - resulting in an eight week postponement of its decision.

The shares were seized by Sky in a surprise swoop last November, shortly after Virgin Media's 'friendly' bid for ITV. Hands aloft in pious indignation, Clan Murdoch insisted its investment was simply that of a "supportive shareholder".

However, Virgin and ITV - and almost every independent observer - saw the move as a blatant (if perfectly legal) spoiling tactic.

The Commission gave as its reason for the delay "a large amount of evidence from many parties which has required a substantial amount of analysis".

Accordingly, it has extended its investigation for a further eight weeks beyond the original deadline of 7 November.

In reality, however, the review now reaches beyond the Sky stake to encompass the entirety of News Corporation's UK media holdings - with an especially close interest in NewsCorp's hold over the national press sector.

With four national newspapers - The Times, The Sun and their weekend siblings The Sunday Times and the News of the World - the Murdoch family controls more than 35% of UK newspaper readership.

Its massive influence, both at the top and nether ends of the UK newspaper market, is a situation many political and media observers believe to be long overdue for review.

Data sourced from BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff