Rupert Murdoch’s bid to take over Sky provisionally halted by competition regulator
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Tuesday January 23 2018
The UK’s competition regulator has provisionally blocked Rupert Murdoch’s bid to take full control of Sky due to concerns about media plurality.
The Competition and Markets Authority stated that due to the Murdoch Family Trust’s (MFT) current ownership of 21st Century Fox and News Corp, its ambition to increase its control over Sky would create “too much control over news providers in the UK across all media platforms”. The regulator provisionally concluded that a takeover of Sky would therefore create “too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda”.
The CMA noted that Murdoch’s current news outlets are watched, read or heard by over 30% of the UK’s population, with news consumption only exceeded by the BBC and ITN, but double that of the next largest provider, Daily Mail and General Trust. Despite the range of other news outlets available to UK audiences, the CMA believed that these would not be sufficient to moderate or mitigate the increased influence of the MFT if the deal went ahead.
The CMA stated that the potential takeover would give MFT the ability to influence the content of Sky News, creating increased editorial alignment of the broadcaster with newspapers currently owned by News Corp, such as The Sun and The Times.
The CMA was assessing Fox’s bid to increase its current 39% stake in Sky to 100%. Fox announced in mid-2017 its intention to takeover Sky, stating that the media landscape had changed beyond recognition since its previous bid to purchase Sky in 2011.
In assessing Fox’s commitment to broadcasting standards and wider regulatory compliance, the CMA noted the findings of the Leveson Inquiry and the failure of News International and News Corporation to comply with press standards and the law in regards to phone-hacking. The regulator considered however that News Corp’s subsequent alterations to its governance systems indicated that MFT have a genuine commitment to the attainment of broadcasting standards.
There is currently a 3-week consultation period in place for anyone to make further submissions to the CMA. The regulator will publish its final report by May, with the ultimate decision on the takeover made by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Matt Hancock.