The Government has extended the deadline to review 21st Century Fox’s £11.7 billion takeover bid for Sky by more than a month in light of the looming general election.
While the deal has already been given the green light by EU regulators, Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and communication watchdog Ofcom have yet to complete their own investigations.
Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Karen Bradley confirmed on Friday that she has extended their deadline by nearly a month to account for the snap election which was announced by Theresa May earlier this week.
“Given the proximity of this decision to the forthcoming general election and following discussions with the parties, Ofcom, the CMA and the Cabinet Office Propriety and Ethics team I wrote to Ofcom and the CMA on Friday 21 April to extend the period by which these reports should be submitted to Tuesday 20 June,” Ms Bradley said.
The previous deadline was set for May 16.
Once the CMA and Ofcom reports have been received, the Culture Secretary will have 10 working days to decide whether to approve the deal or ask for a more in-depth report.
The new timeline means that Sky’s fortunes could be decided as early as July 4.
Fox is aiming to seize control of the 61% of Sky it does not already own and the bid comes five years after Rupert Murdoch’s last tilt at taking the business over through News Corporation.
Mr Murdoch – the owner and executive chairman of 21st Century Fox – was forced to abandon his last attempt to take over Sky in 2011 through News Corp, amid the phone-hacking scandal involving News International.
It faced opposition from rivals in the media industry and some politicians before it was scuppered by acute pressure on the company brought about by phone-hacking claims.
The new bid has faced objections from Labour politicians, who have urged the Prime Minister to make good her promise to stand up to powerful interest groups, and asked for as surances that the takeover would not allow Mr Murdoch or his family to promote their own political views and interests.
Ofcom said it is also extending the deadline for a separate investigation into whether the combined company would be a “fit and proper” holder of a broadcast licence to June 20.
That test will take into account issues including any historical or current misconduct by a licensee.
A spokesperson for the communications watchdog said: ” The issues we are required to consider in the public interest assessment may overlap with our own consideration of Sky’s fitness to hold broadcasting licences.
“Given this overlap, we are extending the consideration of our fit and proper assessment, and expect to reach conclusions on June 20.”
Ofcom also conducted a “fit and proper” test around News Corp’s bid for Sky in 2011.
While the watchdog at the time raised concerns about alleged misconduct by certain individuals at News of the World and The Sun, the companies and individuals involved were ultimately cleared to hold a licence.