The Office of Fair Trading has issued a formal invitation to comment on last December’s acquisition by BSkyB of a 17.9% stake in ITV plc. In a statement the OFT said that a relevant merger situation might have been created because Sky and ITV might have come under a common control as defined by the Enterprise Act 2002. The decision is based on the assumption that Sky has acquired a material influence over ITV and that the turnover test has been satisfied.
BSkyB said that it would do nothing to compromise the integrity of ITV and that it would co-operate with the enquiry. Last November’s £940 million acquisition of ITV shares by BSkyB effectively blocked plans by the cable operator NTL to make a bid for the commercial network.
The OFT is looking to establish whether Sky’s acquisition of the holding in ITV might have resulted in a lessening of competition. The closing date for comments is January 25.
A separate investigation by the media regulator Ofcom is expected to report in the next few weeks. (JC)