NEWS
07/07/2011 12:10 BST | Updated 06/09/2011 06:12 BST

Decision on BSkyB Takeover Could Take Weeks After Surge In Online Campaigning

A final decision on whether News Corp will be allowed to complete its take-over of BSkyB will take several weeks, the government has said, after Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt received more than 100,000 submissions to a consultation on the deal from the public.

Two campaigns organised by online activist groups 38 Degrees and Avaaz resulted in a dramatic increase in submissions to Hunt's consultation, which is scheduled to end midday Friday.

Avaaz, the global online activist network, said that more than 130,000 people, or "around 3,000 an hour", had sent submissions to Hunt's consultation via the group's website.

Alex Wilks, Avaaz campaign director, said: "The practices inside some of Rupert Murdoch's media outlets are so despicable Jeremy Hunt shouldn't possibly allow the takeover of BskyB. When 40,000 people made similar submissions in March to the previous consultations it forced Jeremy Hunt to delay his next announcement by around six weeks, we can assume that triple or quadrouple that amount will have an even bigger effect."

Wilks added that Avaaz "imagine they're going to have a busy summer".

But the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said that there was no delay as there had never been a set timetable for the announcement: "The Secretary of State has always been clear that he will take as long as is needed to reach a decision... The consultation closes tomorrow, after which the Secretary of State will consider carefully all the responses submitted and take advice from Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading before reaching his decision on whether or not to accept the undertakings offered by NewsCorp."

In a separate action the UK-based campaigning group 38 Degrees said that it had received more than 100,000 signatures for its petition to stop the deal via its own website. 38 Degrees plan to deliver the petition to Hunt's department in person tomorrow, and said they will also be delivering a copy to OFCOM.

The group, who were profiled recently by The Huffington Post, held a protest on June 30 to protest the BSkyB deal and said that more protests will follow later this week.

David Babbs, director of the UK-based campaigning group 38 Degrees, said that its members were incensed by the idea of Murdoch's News Corp successfully taking-over BSkyB: "David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt are proposing that we wave through the biggest media deal in the history of the UK on the basis of promises of a corporation that is under multiple criminal investigations."

Babbs added that his members were encouraged by several MPs criticising Murdoch and the BSkyB deal in parliament on Wednesday. "Yesterday we saw politicians starting to admit that Murdoch's been hacking our democracy as well as our phones," he said.