Sky has described itself as “disappointed” at the news that culture secretary Karen Bradley is “minded” to refer Fox’s takeover bid to regulators over concerns about broadcasting standards.
The companies announced plans for the deal, which would see 21st Century Fox buy the 61% of Sky it doesn’t already own, last December and immediately faced opposition from media campaigners and politicians who claim it would deliver Fox owner Rupert Murdoch too much control over the UK’s news and media landscape.
A previous attempt by Fox to buy Sky failed in the wake of the phone hacking scandal that led to the closure of The News of the World.
“I have the power to make a reference if I believe there is a risk – which is not purely fanciful – that the merger might operate against the specified public interests,” Ms Bradley told MPs on Tuesday.
Bradley has already indicated she will refer the deal to the Competition and Markets Authority on grounds that the Murdoch family’s controlling stakes in both News Corporation and Fox would further concentrate media ownership in the UK.
MPs were told that if she does refer the deal, it would take around 6 months for the CMA to conclude its deliberations.
A Sky spokesperson said: “We are disappointed by this further delay and that the Secretary of State is now minded to refer the proposed acquisition to the CMA in relation to broadcasting standards despite Ofcom, as the independent broadcast regulator, maintaining its advice that there are not sufficient concerns to justify such a reference.
“Nevertheless we will continue to engage with the process as the Secretary of State reaches her final decision.”