Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said today he was "minded to accept" News Corp's bid
In a statement this morning, Hunt reiterated that he was "minded to accept" undertakings from Rupert Murdoch's company to spin off Sky News under a separate company to ensure media plurality.
Hunt also announced a new public consultation over "a more robust set of undertakings" regarding the Sky News arrangements. The consultation will start today and close on 8 July
They include installing an independent editorial director "with senior editorial and/or journalistic experience" to be present at board meetings and for Sky to continue to promote Sky News across its channels.
Hunt confirmed in March that he intended to accept the initial undertakings from News Corp to spin off Sky News and limit its shareholding in the channel to 39.1 per cent, and said he would not therefore refer the bid to the Competition Commission, despite concerns raised by the Office of Fair Trading and Ofcom.
News Corp later hit out at Ofcom, accusing it of failing to approach it's assessment with an open mind.
Providing the bid isn't stalled in any way by the new consultation, News Corp will be clear to start negotiations with Sky's investors. Murdoch's company made an offer of 700p per share for Sky last year but the offer was rejected. It has been reported that Sky now intends to push for around £4 billion more than last year's £7.8 billion offer.
"I am aware of the huge interest in the proposed merger and am grateful to those who responded to the consultation", Hunt said today.
"I have considered carefully the points raised and, as at all steps in this process, taken advice from the independent regulators.
"The regulators have confirmed that the proposed undertakings are still sufficient to ensure media plurality. I could have decided to accept the original undertakings but a number of suggestions were made in response to the consultation which could further strengthen the undertakings, particularly around editorial independence, business viability and the articles of association.
"I am therefore proposing some changes to the undertakings and I will now hold a further public consultation."
Hunt received more than 40,000 responses to the previous consultation, according to his statement, including "a very large number of near-identical responses as a result of internet campaigns".
During the consultation, he met with representatives from Trinity Mirror, Guardian Media Group, Telegraph Media Group, Associated News and Media, law firm Slaughter and May, and campaign group Avaaz, which is understood to be responsible for the large number of identical responses.
The National Union of Journalists has announced that it intends to stage a protest today against the the planned takeover.
The union has been readied for a demonstration since earlier indicators that Hunt was preparing to give the green light to the merger, and confirmed the details of the protest this morning.
Reacting to the previous consultation report in March, the NUJ called the proposal to spin off Sky News a "whitewash".
"This decision is bad news for democracy and media plurality," NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said in a statement.
The new consultation will run until the 8 July.
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