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Ofcom dismisses Sky report speculation

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Ofcom has dismissed a BBC report which claimed that the media regulator has recommended for News Corp's proposed takeover of Sky to be investigated by the Competition Commission.

At the end of last year, Ofcom submitted a confidential report to culture secretary Jeremy Hunt on whether News Corp's bid to acquire the 61% of Sky that it does not already own poses a significant threat to media plurality in the UK.

Yesterday, the BBC's business editor Robert Peston said that he was "as sure as I can be" that Ofcom has made an "unambiguous recommendation" for the takeover to be passed to the Competition Commission.

Peston also questioned the secretary of state's motivations for not immediately responding to Ofcom's conclusion by triggering a lengthier probe into the takeover.

However, an Ofcom spokesman dismissed the BBC report, telling C21 Media: "We don't comment on speculation, and our report and its findings are confidential until the secretary of state publishes his decision."

Peston is sticking by his assertion, insisting that it is not based on "speculation" but rather drawn from "fact". In an update to his post, he wrote: "I slightly regret the way I wrote this post, because some of you seem to think this is speculation. It isn't speculation.

"What I am saying is very simple: Ofcom has recommended that there should be a full Competition Commission enquiry into News Corporation's plan to buy all of British Sky Broadcasting. That is a fact."

Culture secretary Hunt was handed the job of arbitrating on the bid by Rupert Murdoch's media empire to take full control of Sky after business secretary Vince Cable was stripped of the power for telling undercover reporters that he had "declared war" on Murdoch.

However, Hunt's impartiality has been consistently questioned due to favourable comments he made about Murdoch in an interview last year, along with the revelation that he held a private meeting with News Corp representatives after the first bid for Sky was submitted last June.

During a debate at the London School of Economics this week, Hunt said that he fully expects his decision on the Sky bid to be "judicially challenged by the side that is disappointed".

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