A decision on whether 21st Century Fox’s acquisition of Sky can go ahead may not be made before next year, according to press reports.
According to Bloomberg, citing a department spokesman, UK culture, media and sport secretary of state Karen Bradley is set to delay a decision on whether an in-depth probe should go ahead until after the Parliamentary summer recess.
Bloomberg said a second spokesman had told it no decision had yet been taken.
Opponents of the deal have demanded a wider review after Bradley earlier indicated she wouldrestrict any competition probe to the question of whether the deal would give the Murdoch family too much influence over UK media.
A number of senior UK politicians including former Labour leader Ed Miliband, Conservative politician Ken Clarke and prospective Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable wrote to Bradley at the end of last week to complain that Ofcom’s analysis of whether Fox would maintain broadcast standards was flawed.
Advocacy group Avaaz has separately threatened to take legal action if the Competition and Markets Authority probe does not cover commitment to broadcasting standards.
According to separate Bloomberg and Guardian reports, Fox will decline to make concessions to avoid a CMA investigation, making a referral more likely.
According to the reports, Fox has concluded that a CMA probe, which could take up to six months to complete, is the preferable route, and that Bradley in any case is unlikely to find it politically possible to approve a deal without an investigation.
If Fox fails to complete the deal by the end of this year, it is liable to pay a special dividend of 10p (13¢) a share to Sky shareholders, implying a total payout of more than £170 million.