The Competition and Markets Authority’s provisional findings suggest that Fox taking full control of Sky is not in the public interest due to media plurality concerns.
However, it said there was no evidence of a lack of genuine commitment to UK broadcasting standards. It follows a high profile campaign over the impartiality of US-based Fox News.
“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,” Anne Lambert, Chair of the independent investigation Group. “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.”
It’s proposing that Sky News could be either spun off or divested from Sky itself – shareholders in the broadcaster had previously indicated they would close the loss making news channel if they did not approve the £11.7 billion purchase.
The move has not gone unnoticed by the CMA, which says it does not see why Sky would want to close the news channels as the continued operation of Sky News would be unlikely to represent an obstacle to the Disney/Fox transaction.
The CMA’s proposal is for Sky News to become a separate PLC with an independent board of directors. A brand licensing agreement would maintain the Sky News name.
Fox said it welcomed the findings and would continue to work with the CMA through to the end of the investigation. “We welcome 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,” the company said in a statement.
A three-week consultation period into the findings ends on February 13, 2018.
The deadline for a final decision has now been moved back to May 1, 2018.