Media regulator to investigate plurality issues

A day after Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. notified the European Commission that it intends to go ahead with a takeover bid for British pay TV provider BSkyB, the U.K. government’s business secretary, Vince Cable, has intervened.

Cable has asked media regulator Ofcom to investigate News Corp.’s bid for the 61% of BSkyB that it does not already own. Though Cable had 10 working days in which to decide, he acted swiftly.

“I have decided that it is appropriate to issue an intervention notice in this particular case,” Cable said. “The independent experts at Ofcom will now investigate and report to me on the media plurality issues that may arise from this proposed acquisition.”

Aside from BSkyB, News Corp. owns four leading national newspapers in the market.

Ofcom has until Dec. 31 to submit a report. Based on that, Cable will decide whether to refer the case to the Competition Commission.

News Corp. said in a statement that it was confident the proposed investment would not adversely affect media plurality and “looks forward to discussing any substantive issues with the relevant authorities.”

News Corp. filed a 1,000-page document with the EC Wednesday, formally announcing its intentions. The EC shared it with the U.K. business department the same day.

Independently of the U.K. business department, the EC will decide by Dec. 8 whether the deal breaches European antitrust rules. If it orders a full enquiry, the process could take up to 125 working days.

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