21st Century Fox's Sky takeover will be referred to CMA for in-depth investigation, culture secretary Karen Bradley confirms

 
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Rupert Murdoch's Fox made an £11.7bn bid for the 61 per cent of Sky it does not already own in December last year (Source: Getty)

The culture secretary this morning confirmed she will refer Fox’s bid for Sky to the competition regulator for an in-depth, phase two investigation.

Karen Bradley said she will refer the bid on the grounds of both media plurality and broadcasting standards.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will now have 24 weeks to report back to the government. Bradley will then make a "final decision on whether or not the merger can proceed".

Elsewhere today, James Murdoch, son of Rupert and chief executive of 21st Century Fox, suggested the outcome of the Sky deal could demonstrate how much the UK is "open for business".

He told the RTS conference:

Inward investment in the UK creative economy, and the positive signal it sends to companies around the world, is more important than ever as the UK prepares to chart a course outside the EU.

Indeed, the soft power of the UK’s creative identity is going to be a big part of that story.

And so, if the UK truly is 'open for business' post Brexit, we look forward to moving through the regulatory review process and this transformative transaction for the UK creative sector becoming an affirmation of that claim.

Confirmation from Bradley comes after she reaffirmed to the House of Commons on Tuesday her intention to refer the bid on the grounds of media plurality. She also said she was now "minded to" do so on the grounds of "genuine commitment to broadcasting standards".

Bradley confirmed her "final decision" in the Commons today, after receiving representations from Fox and Sky yesterday.

She told the House of Commons this morning:

"Mr Speaker, on Tuesday I set out that I was minded-to refer the proposed merger of 21st Century Fox and Sky on the genuine commitment to broadcasting standards as well as media plurality grounds.

"Yesterday I received letters on behalf of both parties to the merger confirming that while they disagree with my minded-to decision, they would not be making substantive representations in relation to it.

"As a result, I can confirm my final decision is to refer the merger to the CMA for a Phase 2 investigation on media plurality and genuine commitment to broadcasting standards grounds. I will issue and publish my formal referral decision in the coming days. I will also publish the substantive representations I have received during this process shortly.

"From the point of referral, the CMA has 24 weeks - around six months - in which to investigate the merger and provide me with advice. I must then come to a final decision on whether or not the merger can proceed, including any conditions that will apply in order to do so."

Fox said in a statement: "Yesterday we wrote to the Secretary of State expressing disappointment that she had changed her mind and decided not to follow the advice of the independent and expert regulator Ofcom regarding broadcasting standards, but informing her that we did not intend to make further representations and encouraged her to make a prompt referral.

"We now, therefore, look forward to engaging constructively with the CMA, as independent authority, and hope that the findings of this process will be respected by the Secretary of State."

Sky said it will "will continue to engage constructively in this process".

Read more: Fox-Sky takeover given more competition hurdles to clear

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