U.K. Deals Blow to Murdoch’s Media Empire*
Fox bid for television group is said to risk giving the mogul too much power over the news.
The U.K. intends to subject Rupert Murdoch’s takeover of European pay-TV group Sky to a lengthy investigation after an assessment said it would give the company undue influence.
The Media Secretary Karen Bradley said she was persuaded to delay Twenty-First Century Fox’s bid after the media regulator Ofcom assessed its impact.
Bradley said the US$14.8 billion deal risks giving Murdoch too much power over the news.
“The proposed entity would have the third largest total reach of any news provider – lower only than the BBC and ITN – and would, uniquely, span news coverage on television, radio, in newspapers and online,” Bradley said.
Murdoch, 86, and his family have long coveted full control of Sky, despite the damaging failure of a previous attempt in 2011 when their U.K. newspaper business became embroiled in a phone-hacking scandal which forced them to abandon that bid.
A public inquiry into the affair revealed deep ties between Murdoch and the political establishment, making the renewed bid potentially toxic for Prime Minister Theresa May’s government which is fighting for survival after losing its majority.
Bradley had asked regulators to examine whether Fox would have too much control of the media, and whether it would be committed to upholding broadcasting standards if it was allowed to buy the satellite company which broadcasts in Britain, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy.
Fox said it was disappointed by the government’s rejection of its plans to maintain editorial independence of Sky News, and said a full investigation could push the deal’s completion date back to next June.
“We will continue to work constructively with the U.K. authorities,” it said.
Bradley said the parties involved had until July 14 to respond to her concerns before she finally decided whether to go ahead with the full probe.