Overwhelming support for a full and independent investigation, into News Corporation’s bid to buy the remaining 61% of BSkyB that it does not already own, is revealed in an ICM poll of 2,006 people published today.
Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Jeremy Hunt will receive an initial report from Ofcom on the implications of the planned deal by 31 December. He then has until 15 January to decide whether or not to refer it to the Competition Commission for a full-blown review. Mr Hunt can task the Commission to examine whether the merger would reduce the plurality of the UK media and should therefore be blocked.
The survey – commissioned by BT, Guardian Media Group, Associated Newspapers Limited, Trinity Mirror Plc, Northcliffe Media and Telegraph Media Group – discloses the depth of public concern over the proposed takeover, which was cleared on competition grounds last week by the European Commission:
· 63% said there should be an independent investigation before deciding whether to allow the deal to proceed
· 84% said that a single organisation should not be allowed to control too much of the news media
· 75% said it was important to have competing independent sources of news in the UK
· 44% oppose the deal with a mere 5% being in favour; opposition among Conservative voters was nearly as strong, with 43% opposed and just 5% in favour
· 53% of those who currently identify themselves as Lib Dem oppose the deal with just 4% being in favour.
A spokesman for the alliance of media groups said:
“This deal marks a significant change of control and the public is clearly concerned. If anything, popular awareness of the issues at stake will now be substantially higher.”
“A clear majority of the public wants a full and independent investigation into News Corporation’s bid to take over BSkyB. The Competition Commission provides that mechanism. The public’s concern that no one organisation should control too much of the news – as News Corporation would under the planned deal – is also very striking.”
“Of those who expressed a view, nine times as many people oppose the deal as support it. With 44% opposing and 5% in favour, that is a significant level of concern. Opposition is stacked against the deal among Conservative voters too.”