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United Kingdom competition commission to review Fox-Sky merger

13 September, 2017, 00:45 | Author: Samuel Sharp
  • 21st Century Fox takeover of Sky referred to competition watchdog

The media regulator gave Bradley the window she was looking for, saying that it "recognises that the legal threshold for referral is low [and] you may refer as secretary of state if there are any non-fanciful concerns".

Fox controlling shareholder Rupert Murdoch is attempting to buy the remaining 61 per cent of Sky he doesn't already own in a deal worth £11.7bn.

Bradley had previously voiced concerns that the combined company would have the third largest reach of any news provider in the United Kingdom, uniquely spanning television, radio, newspapers and digital publications.

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. Regarding media plurality, she confirmed that none of the new representations received from Ofcom had persuaded her to change her position to make a CMA referral.

However, the minister has also referred the deal to the CMA on the basis of "broadcasting standards" concerns that had not been raised publicly until now.

In March, Ms Bradley asked Ofcom, the media and telecoms regulator, to investigate, under the 2002 Enterprise Act, whether the takeover was in the public interest on the grounds of media plurality and broadcasting standards. However, Ofcom said, the issues - including Fox News publishing a discredited story that the murdered Democrat aide Seth Rich was the source of hacked party emails - "did not occur in a broadcasting standards context". "In light of all representations and Ofcom's additional advice, I believe these are sufficient to warrant the exercise of my discretion to refer".


Already at the time, Ms Bradley said that she had "concerns that there may be public interest considerations ... that warrant further investigation" before the deal is recommended. "On the evidence before me, I am not able to conclude that this raises non-fanciful concerns".

Bradley said it was "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 told MPs: "I consider that these non-fanciful concerns do warrant further consideration".

"Before I come to a final decision, I am required - under the Enterprise Act 2002 - to allow the parties to make representations on my proposed decision, and this is the reason my decision at this stage remains a minded-to one", Bradley said. She has consistently said she would be "minded" to refer the deal to a CMA investigation but wanted to ensure any decision was "fair and impartial".

But Bradley also said that there would an in-depth review of the company's commitment to broadcasting standards.

Ofcom's response on 25 August said there were "alleged behaviours [at Fox US] amounting to significant corporate failures that were very concerning".

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