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United Kingdom regulator: Fox takeover of Sky not in public interest

Murdoch's Fox, Sky Deal Against the Public Interest, UK Regulator Says

The CMA also considered recent allegations of sexual harassment against Fox News employees in the United States of America, but provisionally found these were not directly related to the attainment of broadcasting standards.

The agency's investigation into the potential takeover did not find reason for concern about the deal affecting broadcasting standards in the country. These include the company selling the broadcaster Sky News or setting up a structure to "insulate Sky News from the [Murdochs'] influence", CMA said.

A Fox spokesperson said the company was "disappointed" with the ruling on media plurality, but said the company would "continue to engage with the CMA ahead of the publication of the final report in May".

The Murdoch Family Trust is the largest shareholder in Fox and News Corp.

The Murdoch family's proposed 5% stake in the Disney after the Fox deal is an obstacle to the takeover, the CMA warned. "However, TV remains the platform used by the highest proportion of adults as a source of news (69 percent in 2016)".

The MFT's news outlets are now consumed by nearly a third of the UK's population across TV, newspapers, online and radio. Concessions - over and above what had been expected - would need to be made, they said.

"The fear was always, if he gets control over Sky News he could turn it into Fox News".

Blocking the takeover for ethics reasons would have resulted in far bigger problems for the Murdoch family, essentially closing the door for a future deal with Sky and raising further doubts over Murdoch's management of his global news empire. If it wholly-owned Sky, it would have media influence that is not in the public interest, the CMA said.

The deal was referred to the CMA for an investigation last September by Karen Bradley, the then Culture Secretary, after an investigation by media regulator Ofcom.

Cranberries singer Dolores O'Riordan dies aged 46
It added: "Family members are devastated to hear the breaking news and have requested privacy at this very hard time". RTE quoted O'Riordan's publicist as saying that she had died while in London for a short recording session.

Overall, the media plurality concerns identified meant that the CMA provisionally concluded that the proposed transaction is not in the public interest.

Murdoch and the 21st Century Fox have yet to comment on the statement.

We also note that the CMA has elected to avail itself of the statutory 8-week extension, moving its deadline for a final decision to May 1, 2018.

However it adds that Disney's acquisition of Fox is likely to be subject to regulatory scrutiny in the USA and is unlikely to close until well after the review of Fox's takeover of Sky is complete.

Such a move would be political dynamite - critics have already accused Murdoch of using Sky News and its staff as "pawns" to coerce regulators and the government.

21st Century Fox bid £11.4 billion ($15.1 billion, 12.7 billion euros) two years ago for the 61-percent of Sky it does not already own. That decision may ultimately be a moot point because the Walt Disney Co.'s $52.4 billion bid for most of Fox would give Disney — not Murdoch — full ownership of Sky.

Media plurality is defined as "a diversity of independent views about news and current affairs is available from the media", the CMA said early in the review process.

"Broadcasting standards is not an issue anymore", said one hedge fund manager that holds Sky shares.

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