Thursday, 26 April, 2018

Murdoch will 'ring fence' Sky News for 15 years

CREDIT Courtesy of Sky CREDIT Courtesy of Sky
Heather Davidson | 04 April, 2018, 01:14

Disney's December deal to acquire for $52.5 billion many of Fox's assets, including its stake in Sky, is separate from the Sky News offer.

The Walt Disney Co. offered to buy Sky News on Tuesday - but not because the British news channel is core to Disney's business.

But the whole process is stuck at stage one because Sky needs to address concerns from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that the full Sky acquisition could have an adverse impact on the UK's plurality of media ownership, specifically that the Murdoch family would own not only Sky News but also control News UK, the owner of the Times, Sun and TalkSport.

The CMA has said the deal - which will see Murdoch acquire the 61 per cent of Sky he doesn't already own - is not in the public interest, but has yet to make a final ruling on it. The Murdoch family's news outlets are now consumed by almost a third of the UK's population across TV, radio, online and newspapers.

Their view appeared vindicated when Comcast said it would pay 12.50 pounds a share to buy Sky, although it has not yet made a formal bid.

The competition regulator is expected to offer its recommendation on Fox's bid for Sky by May 1.

Fox said its new concessions went beyond the steps that Britain's media regulator Ofcom said would mitigate concerns about Murdoch's influence. Disney views Sky as an important component of its deal to buy Fox assets and key to its plans to expand its global footprint.

The proposed transaction has however been complicated by a rival £22bn bid for Sky from broadcaster Comcast, owner of NBC and Universal Studios, in February.

"If the CMA were to accept at face value these assertions and be dissatisfied with enhanced remedies that are a direct and reasonable response to concerns it had raised with us, we believe that this would compromise the integrity of a system which is supposed to be objective, evidenced-based and grounded on the application of established legal principles", Fox said.

The agency is considering whether to recommend the Fox deal for Sky to Culture Secretary Matt Hancock for approval. His readiness to buy Sky News therefore signals a clear commitment to owning Sky.

"The fact that Disney has agreed this today suggests that the next thing to expect is a revised bid from Fox/Disney for Sky, to match or beat Comcast's offer".

Critics of the deal have said that the independent board could still be influenced by the Murdoch family.

Separately, Twenty-First Century Fox said that it has worked diligently with the CMA throughout its extensive review.

Disney would guarantee to continue funding the loss-making Sky News for five years at the present level and for a further five years at a level "not materially different" from now.

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