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UK government 'minded' to refer Fox's Sky deal to regulator

Friday, March 3, 2017 - 21:31

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The British government said on Friday it was inclined to investigate Rupert Murdoch's planned takeover of Sky to see whether it was in the public interest, the first step of what is likely to be a politically charged process.

[LONDON] The British government said on Friday it was inclined to investigate Rupert Murdoch's planned takeover of Sky to see whether it was in the public interest, the first step of what is likely to be a politically charged process.

Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox, which owns 39 per cent of Sky, notified the European Commission of its agreed £11.7 billion (S$20.277 billion) offer to buy the rest of the European pay-TV group.

The deal, announced in December, came five years after a political and criminal scandal at Mr Murdoch's British newspaper business derailed an earlier bid.

On Friday, Media Secretary Karen Bradley said she was minded to intervene on two grounds: first, to see if any one company would control too much of Britain's media, and second, whether the new owners would have a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards.

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"This is not an announcement of my final decision in relation to intervention, but an indication of what I am presently inclined to do," she said.

Analysts and lawyers had expected the bid to be referred to media regulator Ofcom. Shares in Sky were flat after the news.

The Murdoch family has long wanted to control Sky, a pay-TV group with operations in Germany and Italy as well as Britain, to unite a media empire across two continents.

Some opposition lawmakers have already voiced their concern, saying Murdoch, the owner of The Times and The Sun newspapers, would wield too much power if he had full control of a pay-TV group present in more than 12 million British and Irish homes.

Mr Murdoch's son James, who is CEO of Fox and chairman of Sky, has said he expects the deal to pass regulatory muster.

He said on Thursday the media environment had radically changed in the last five years, giving consumers more choice than ever before in the TV market.

The notification to Brussels gives Britain's Department of Media 10 working days to decide whether the bid should be examined by Ofcom.

Ms Bradley said she had invited representations from the companies involved, and would aim to come to a final decision on whether to intervene in the next 10 days.

REUTERS

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