Competition and Markets Authority scrutiny of £18.5bn Sky-Fox deal to focus on media plurality impact and broadcasting standards

Rebecca Smith
Rupert Murdoch is executive chairman of 21st Century Fox
Rupert Murdoch is executive chairman of 21st Century Fox (Source: Getty)

The competition watchdog has provided further details of its investigation into 21st Century Fox's proposed takeover of Sky, and whether the deal looks likely to impact media plurality and broadcasting standards in the UK.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it will assess whether there will be "sufficient plurality of persons with control of the media enterprises serving audiences in the UK" after the deal, so it wants feedback on the current level of media plurality within the UK, and the extent to which the deal would affect that.

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Rupert Murdoch's firm, which already owned 39 per cent of the media giant, tabled an offer to buy the part of Sky it doesn't already own just before Christmas. Concerns had been raised that the takeover would give Murdoch too much sway over the UK media.

The watchdog said it particularly welcomed views addressing whether the ability of the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT) to control or influence editorial and commercial decisions at Sky News will change as a result of the increased share ownership, and whether the MFT's ability to influence the political agenda will change as a result of the transaction.

With regards to broadcasting standards, the CMA will comb over the current approach of Fox, Sky, the MFT and News Corp to compliance with broadcasting standards, and their approach to effective corporate governance.

Anne Lambert, panel chair, said:

Today we set out the scope of our investigation and the issues on which we will focus.

We now invite submissions on these specific matters so we can thoroughly examine the relevant evidence.

The CMA will use its extensive experience of investigating different issues in a wide range of sectors to thoroughly and impartially investigate the proposed takeover of Sky Plc by 21st Century Fox.

Once the investigation is complete we will report back to Karen Bradley for her to make a final decision.

Last month, culture secretary Karen Bradley referred the £18.5bn takeover to the competition watchdog, "on media plurality and genuine commitment to broadcasting standards grounds".

The CMA will report back to the culture secretary within six months of opening the investigation.

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