Fox’s proposed merger with Sky is likely to be subjected to a full investigation by the Competition and Mergers Authority, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley has announced.
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.
Last week Ms Bradley received advice from both the CMA and Ofcom on whether the deal should proceed.
Today she told MPs that while no concerns had been raised about a merged Fox/Sky company complying with UK broadcasting rules, concerns have been raised about the concentration of power and media plurality.
In light of this the minister says she’s “minded” to order a full, phase 2 probe by the CMA but is first required in law to allow the companies to seek to address concerns.
MPs were told that concessions have already been offered, including establishing a separate editorial board to guarantee the independence of Sky News and a commitment to maintain Sky branded news for five years “with spending at least at similar levels to now.”
While Ofcom has advised these remedies “would mitigate” public interest concerns, the regular also suggested they could be further strengthened.
Therefore Bradley says she is “minded-not-to accept the undertakings that have been offered”.
Both firms have been given until July 14th to make further proposals ahead of a final decision on whether to order the Phase 2 probe.