UK culture secretary Karen Bradley does not plan to make a decision on whether to send the £11.7bn (€13.24bn) deal for a deeper regulatory review. That would likely push the start of the six-month process to September.
Ms Bradley needs time to evaluate public feedback on the deal before making a decision, a spokesman said.
Opponents of the deal have flooded Ms Bradley with criticism of Mr Murdoch’s plans to unite his media empire across the Atlantic, and demanded a wider review that would pore over corporate-governance failings at Fox News and voicemail hacking at his UK newspapers. Ms Bradley said last month she expected to seek a Competition & Markets Authority investigation but on narrower grounds, assessing only whether the deal gives the Murdoch family too much influence over UK media.
Should her ruling be challenged, the UK government could be forced to defend the decision in court. That possibility puts pressure on Ms Bradley to carefully weigh the feedback she will receive.
It would be “amazingly efficient” for Ms Bradley’s department to come to a decision on sending the deal to the CMA before the summer recess, said Alice Enders, head of research at Enders Analysis.