Rupert Murdoch's planned $15 billion takeover of European broadcaster Sky will be referred to regulators over concerns about broadcasting standards, Britain's Culture and Media Secretary Karen Bradley said on Thursday.
Bradley had said on Tuesday she was "minded" to refer Twenty-First Century Fox's planned purchase of the 69% of Sky it does not already own to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to look into corporate governance.
That surprise announcement sent London-listed shares in Sky down 5% before they later recovered, and Bradley now said she could confirm the decision.
"Yesterday I received letters on behalf of both parties to the merger, confirming that while they disagree with my 'minded to' decision they would not be making substantive representations in relation to it," she told parliament.
"As a result, I can confirm that my 'minded to' decision is now final and I will now refer the merger to the CMA for a phase 2 investigation on media plurality and genuine commitment to broadcasting standards grounds."
Bradley said the CMA would have 24 weeks to investigate the merger plans.
"I must then come to a final decision on whether or not the merger can proceed, including any conditions that will apply in order to do so," she added.
Opposition politicians had called on Prime Minister Theresa May's government, weakened by the outcome of an election in June, not to wave through the bid.
Bradley had already wanted regulators to scrutinize the increased influence Murdoch would gain from fully owning Sky, but had also come under pressure to call for an examination of his commitment to broadcasting standards.
Murdoch's U.S. Fox News network has been rocked by a series of sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits, leading to high profile resignations including former chief executive Roger Ailes and star anchor Bill O'Reilly.
The media mogul's critics have also pointed to a phone-hacking scandal involving journalists at his now-defunct News of the World tabloid which forced him to drop a previous attempt to buy Sky in 2011. (Reuters)