UK competition watchdog: Fox's takeover of Sky 'not in public interest'

Deal would hand Murdoch too much power – provisional ruling

rupert murdoch

Fox's proposed £11.7bn take over of Sky has been deemed not to be in the public interest, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally ruled today.

The regulator ruled against 21st Century Fox's bid to take control of the remaining 61 per cent of Sky due to media plurality concerns.

It found that if the deal went ahead, it would lead to the Murdoch Family Trust, which controls Fox and 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 (TV, Radio, Online and Newspapers), and therefore too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda."

The 86-year-old billionaire's news outlets are watched, read or heard by nearly a third of the UK’s population, and have a combined share of the public’s news consumption that is significantly greater than all other news providers, except the BBC and ITN, said the CMA.

Anne Lambert, chair of the independent investigation group, said: "Media plurality goes to the heart of our democratic process. It is very important that no group or individual should have too much control of our news media or too much power to affect the political agenda.

"We have provisionally found that if the Fox/Sky merger went ahead as proposed, it would be against the public interest. It would result in the Murdoch family having too much control over news providers in the UK, and too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda."

Due to its control of News Corp, the Murdoch family already has significant influence over public opinion and full ownership of Sky by Fox would strengthen this even further, it said.

While there are a range of other news outlets serving UK audiences, the CMA has provisionally found that they would not be sufficient to moderate or mitigate the increased influence of the MFT if the deal went ahead.

In a statement, Fox said it welcomed the CMA’s provisional finding that the company has a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards and the transaction would not be against the public interest in this respect.

"Regarding plurality, we are disappointed by the CMA's provisional findings.

We will continue to engage with the CMA ahead of the publication of the final report in May."

The CMA will consult on its provisional findings and potential before making its final report to the government by a deadline of 1 May. ®

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