Vince Cable decides to refer News Corp’s bid for Sky to Ofcom – when it happens

And there’ll be much biting of the carpet in New Corp’s HQs in London’s docklands and New York over what seems to be an inspired leak from Vince Cable’s business department that a bid by News Corp to buy the 61 per cent of UK broadcaster Sky it doesn’t own will be referred to industry regulator Ofcom.

A referral to Ofcom usually means a referral on to the Competition Commission, which can take years.

Officially Cable says that, because News Corp hasn’t tabled a formal bid yet, it says it’s minded to bid 700p share but is waiting to find out what the European Commission thinks, he can’t comment.

But he obviously hates the idea and couldn’t care less whether or not his Tory partners in the coalition government think otherwise. They can hardly dump him because he’s upset Rupert Murdoch.

As for the Murdochs, Rupert the big boss and son James the UK consigliere, they’re probably feeling like taking a bite out of Cable’s trousers too. The last thing they expected was a UK government to put competition or, in this case, ‘plurality’ issues in their path.

This isn’t why they switched their newspapers’ support from Labour to David Cameron’s Tories at all.

Plurality considerations rule out News Corp from owning all of Sky in addition to all those newspapers (the Sun, the News of the World, The Times and the Sunday Times). It would mean that News owned the biggest broadcaster in the UK and the biggest newspaper group.

Will News Corp’s papers turn their fire on the coalition government and the sainted Vince?

They just might.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.