The proposed £18.5bn takeover of Sky plc, the owner of Sky News, by 21st Century Fox has been passed to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for investigation.
The decision was announced in the Commons by the Culture Secretary Karen Bradley less than 48 hours after she told MPs she intended to refer the deal on the grounds of media plurality and on the genuine commitment of Fox to broadcasting standards.
She said the inquiry, which could take up to six months to complete, would now go ahead because both companies had since indicated they would not be making “substantive representations” in relation to the decision.
Both Sky and Fox had been given 10 working days to respond – each declaring their disappointment at the delay.
Ms Bradley has frequently stressed that the CMA inquiry is part of a quasi-judicial process which means she is not obliged to adhere to the inquiry’s recommendation.
Fox announced in December last year that it was launching a fresh bid to buy the 61% of Sky that it does not already own.
Sky agreed that its largest shareholder would have to pay £11.7bn – with the deal later being signed off by regulators in each country where Sky operates apart from in its main UK market where Ms Bradley has the final say.
The company reacted to her decision by saying in a statement: Sky plc notes today’s announcement by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the proposed acquisition of Sky by 21st Century Fox.
“We note the swift decision to now refer this to the CMA and will continue to engage constructively in this process.”