The proposed merger of Sky and 21st Century Fox would not be in the public interest due to media plurality concerns, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally ruled.
The CMA was investigating Fox’s proposed takeover of the telecoms firm on the grounds of commitment to broadcasting and media plurality, after a referral from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in September. It found the deal to fall down on the latter, despite the body noting that Fox ‘has a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards in the UK’.
The authority said the takeover big would likely operate against the public interest because of the high stake the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT) would consequently own on the UK media scene.
The Murdoch dynasty currently controls both Fox and News Corp, and the addition of Sky would give it ‘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’.
It added that the MFT’s news outlets were already watched, read or heard by nearly one third of the UK’s population.
In August, in an anticipatory move to counter media plurality concerns in the UK, Murdoch closed the Fox News feed on Sky ahead of the review.
Anne Lambert, chair of the CMA’s 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.”
Proposals have been made by the CMA on how the bid may be able to proceed before new culture secretary, Matt Hancock, is handed a final report on 1 May 2018. He will then made the final decision on the deal.
Chaired by Rupert Murdoch, 21st Century Fox already owns 39% of Sky. The Walt Disney company announced plans to acquire the company for $52.4bn in December.