21st Century Fox takeover of Sky likely headed to competition watchdog

Oliver Gill
Follow Oliver
Karen Bradley said today she is "minded to" refer the Fox takeover of Sky on a second ground (Source: Getty)

The 21st Century Fox takeover of Sky will likely be referred to the competition regulator, the culture secretary announced today, after a fresh hurdle was put in the way of the deal..

Karen Bradley said she was "minded to" refer the takeover the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on the grounds of media plurality.

And following additional representations from the UK's broadcasting regulator Ofcom, Bradley said she is now "minded to" refer the deal to the CMA on the grounds of broadcasting standards.

The reference to the CMA on media plurality was widely expected after Bradley previously stated she was "minded to" do so.

But a referral on the grounds of broadcasting standards follows Bradley's request for Ofcom to reconsider its original findings earlier this year.

She said:

I have taken careful account of all relevant representations and Ofcom’s advice and have, today - as required by the legislation - written to the parties to inform them I am now minded-to-refer the merger to the CMA on the grounds of genuine commitment to broadcasting standards.

Read more: Sly: 21st Century Fox to stop broadcasting Fox News in UK via Sky

Ofcom clarification

In Ofcom's original report, the regulator concluded there were "no broadcasting standards concerns that may justify a reference” to the CMA.

However, in its latest update, Ofcom clarified it did have "non-fanciful concerns" on broadcasting standards.

Bradley concluded:

The existence of non-fanciful concerns means that - as a matter of law - the threshold for a reference on the broadcasting standards ground is met.

In light of all representations and Ofcom’s additional advice, I believe these are sufficient to warrant the exercise of my discretion to refer.

The culture secretary said today's "minded to" decision on broadcasting standards can only be confirmed once parties have had the chance to make representations in response. Such parties have 10 days to respond to today's decision.

Read more: Sky investor Crispin Odey "quite happy" if Fox's takeover bid fails

If Bradley then confirms a CMA probe, the authority will have six months to report back on its findings on the consequences for either broadcasting standards, media plurality or both, if the deal were to go ahead.