The Week: Sky stake in ITV criticised by Competition Commission

Analysts suggest that BSkyB is likely to be forced to reduce its stake in ITV to below ten per cent after the Competition Commission found its shareholding was against the public interest.

The provisional ruling by the commission said that BSkyB's 17.9 per cent stake could breach competition laws by giving it the ability to "influence ITV's key strategic decisions". The ruling did not find cause for concern in relation to advertising or news provision. The commission will consult further on remedies, including a possible forced sale, before making its final report to John Hutton, Secretary of State for the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

The acquisition of the £940 million stake in 2006 was widely seen as an attempt by BSkyB to prevent a merger between Virgin Media and ITV. This ruling could open the way for a renewed attempt, although a Virgin Media source said it was no longer interested in a bid for ITV.