21st Century Fox takeover of Sky referred to competition watchdog

13 September, 2017, 00:44 | Author: Franklin Nunez
  • 21st Century Fox takeover of Sky referred to competition watchdog

The publication of letters between Karen Bradley and the media regulator show the culture secretary was determined to ask their competition counterpart to look into the Murdochs' commitment to broadcasting standards as part of its investigation into 21st Century Fox's £11.7bn bid to take over Sky.

Sky shares fell 1.7 percent on the news, to 936 pence.

Murdoch's 21st Century Fox agreed to take full control of Sky in December.

21st Century Fox announced in August that its controversial news channel would no longer be broadcast in the United Kingdom after failing to attract an audience.

Speaking to the House of Commons Tuesday, Bradley said that "that none of the representations received have persuaded me to change my position".

A Sky spokesperson said: "We are disappointed by this further delay and that the Secretary of State is now minded to refer the proposed acquisition to the CMA in relation to broadcasting standards despite Ofcom, as the independent broadcast regulator, maintaining its advice that there are not sufficient concerns to justify such a reference".

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Sky shares dropped by roughly 2% in London.

In March this year Mr Murdoch's company formally notified the European Commission that it was bidding almost £12bn for the European pay-TV company. Britain is under pressure to reassure investors of the nation's future path amid stalling Brexit talks with the EU.

In July, Bradley said she was still minded to refer the bid to the CMA on media plurality concerns, but not on the grounds of commitment to broadcasting standards.

Bradley's decision remains "minded to" because she must allow the parties to make representations on the proposed decision.

At issue for the CMA would be the scope of the Murdoch family's media influence in the United Kingdom and Fox's broadcasting record. Another Murdoch company, News Corporation, already owns British newspapers the Times, the Sunday Times and the Sun. Ofcom has said that the takeover could give the Murdoch family too much influence over Britain's media. "She added: "...entities which adopt controversial or partisan approaches to news and current affairs in other jurisdictions should, at the same time, have a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards here.

"The evidence before us of senior management efforts to rectify the situation, which included dismissal of those directly responsible, our judgment was that. there were not concerns which may justify a reference on grounds of the broadcast standards", Ofcom said.

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Fox already has a 39 percent stake in Sky.

CMA reviews typically take around six months.

Political advocacy group Avaaz has challenged a review by Ofcom that found Sky would continue to be a "fit and proper" media outlet under Fox ownership.

But Bradley, who has remained United Kingdom culture secretary in May's new government, has been seen as being under pressure to not wave the deal through given that the topic of the Murdochs and their political power has been a hotly discussed topic in Britain.

"The direction of the political winds in the United Kingdom are less favourable every day with Labour rising", said Ms Alice Enders, head of research at Enders Analysis.

"These are matters the CMA may wish to consider in the event of a referral", Bradley said. Bradley had previously said only an investigation into the former question was necessary. "She's done her job today, and it's now for the CMA to do theirs".

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