Ofcom is to investigate Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox's takeover bid for Sky to determine whether it would hand the mogul too much power over news in the UK and assess if he is a “fit and proper” owner in light of the phone-hacking scandal.
The culture secretary, Karen Bradley, has referred Murdoch’s £18bn bid to the media regulator, telling MPs she had issued a European intervention notice on the grounds of “media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards”.
Ofcom will look at whether Fox’s bid to buy the 61% of Sky it does not already own would raise issues of UK media plurality given that Murdoch already holds full control of the Times, Sunday Times and the Sun newspapers and radio group TalkSport, through separate company News Corp.
Critics of the proposed takeover have voiced concerns that Murdoch would use his position to shape the news agenda leaving Sky’s news coverage resembling that of the right wing Fox News.
Rival broadcasters have previously called for the bid to be blocked and are expected to lodge complaints that the Fox/Sky combination would dominate future bidding negotiations for prized sports TV rights.
Ofcom has up to 40 working days to complete its report on the public interest concerns and if the regulator cites problems Bradley must decide whether to accept an undertaking from Fox to address them.