Business

Britain toughens stance on Murdoch's bid for Sky

Britain toughens stance on Murdoch's bid for Sky

Sky has described itself as "disappointed" at the news that culture secretary Karen Bradley is "minded" to refer Fox's takeover bid to regulators over concerns about broadcasting standards.

Bradley had in late June said that she was "minded" to take the approach of an extended analysis on competition grounds after reviewing a report from United Kingdom media regulator Ofcom, which had analyzed the deal's effects on competition, or media plurality, and commitments to editorial standards.

The billionaire had hoped to spent £11.7bn to take full control of Sky through his 21st Century Fox company, which is controlled by Murdoch and his sons.

In June, the culture secretary said she was "minded" to refer the deal on media plurality but not broadcasting standards after Ofcom raised concerns about how dominant the Murdoch family could be in public life if they were allowed to own all of Sky.

She told MPs: "I consider that these non-fanciful concerns do warrant further consideration".

Even though in August the Murdochs took US-produced Fox News off the air in the UK, Bradley also pointed to representation made over Fox's news style, saying: "I consider it important that 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". She said some representations contended that Ofcom did not adequately take into account Fox's approach to broadcasting in worldwide jurisdictions - for example, the United States and Australia - citing examples of "alleged biased, divisive and grossly inaccurate reporting". "These are matters the CMA may wish to consider".

"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.

Karen Bradley disagreed with Ofcom
Karen Bradley disagreed with Ofcom

It urged her to take a final decision quickly.

However, in its latest update, Ofcom clarified it did have "non-fanciful concerns" on broadcasting standards. She was not confident that weaknesses in Fox's corporate governance arrangements were incapable of affecting compliance in the broadcasting standards context.

Bradley still has ten days before her decision is finalised and the deal could still be given the go-ahead.

Fox's bid for Sky may be delayed after a minister questioned whether phone-hacking and harassment scandals could hurt broadcasting standards.

On 29 August in what was seen my many observers as a tactic to ease the bid, Fox News was pulled from Sky's United Kingdom grid.

Bradley was under high pressure to carry out further investigation.

Shares in Sky fell 4 percent on the unexpected twist before recovering slightly to be down 2 percent.

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