U.K. gov’t won’t rush BSkyB deal

Hunt says he won't be boxed in by 'artificial deadlines'

U.K. Media Minister Jeremy Hunt has said he will not give the final greenlight for News Corp. to purchase the 61% of BSkyB it does not already own until he is satisfied that guarantees over the new ownership structure of Sky News are watertight.

Revealing that the British government had received 40,000 responses on the controversial $12 billion-plus takeover as part of a public consultation, the pol said he did not intend to be boxed in by any “artificial deadlines.”

Hunt had been expected to sign off the deal at the end of April, but speaking to the Broadcasting Press Guild on Thursday he said: “It has taken longer than I had expected. … But I have always been clear that we are going to go through this process with total thoroughness and total impartiality.”

He revealed that a further consultation period could take place due to the matter’s importance.

“I would like a conclusion as quickly as possible but the most important thing is to get it absolutely right,” Hunt stressed. “We want to flesh out the very important details of the (Sky News) carriage agreement and the licensing agreement under which Sky would carry Sky News. These directly impact on the future financial sustainability of Sky News.

In March, Hunt approved the deal on condition that Sky News be run as a separate entity in order to satisfy concerns that a BSkyB owned outright by News Corp might threaten media plurality in the U.K., where News also owns four national newspapers as well as 39% of the market-leading pay box.

Any delays to the deal could cost News Corp. yet more money if BSkyB’s stock price continues to rise.