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January 24, 2018

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Fox-Sky deal ‘not in the public interest’

Britain’s competition regulator provisionally ruled yesterday that a planned takeover of pan-European satellite TV giant Sky by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox entertainment group was “not in the public interest.”

The government had referred the matter to the Competition and Markets Authority for an in-depth probe last September owing to concerns about media plurality and broadcasting standards.

21st Century Fox bid 11.4 billion pounds (US$15.1 billion) two years ago for the 61-percent of Sky it does not already own.

“The CMA has provisionally found that Fox taking full control of Sky is not in the public interest due to media plurality concerns, but not because of a lack of a genuine commitment to meeting broadcasting standards in the UK,” the regulator said in a statement.

“The media plurality concerns identified mean that, overall, the CMA provisionally concludes that the proposed transaction is not in the public interest.”

However, in a separate document detailing potential remedies, the CMA indicated that its plurality concerns would “fall away” on completion of Disney’s takeover of 21st Century Fox.

In a twist to the Sky saga, Disney announced in December a US$52.4-billion deal to buy 21st Century Fox.

The Fox/Sky takeover has meanwhile been approved by regulators in Austria, Germany, Ireland and Italy as well as the European Union.

But it has not yet been given the nod in Britain, where concerns linger over the strengthening influence of Australian-born US tycoon Murdoch.

The CMA added yesterday that the deal would hand Murdoch “too much control” over UK news — and therefore too much power in swaying public opinion.

“It would lead to the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT), which controls Fox and News Corporation (News Corp), increasing its control over Sky, so that it would have too much control over news providers in the UK across all media platforms (television, radio, online and newspapers), and therefore too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda.”


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