Culture secretary starts the clock on Fox Sky decision after the competition regulator delivers its final verdict

 
Oliver Gill
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Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox originally agreed a takeover with the Sky board in December 2016 (Source: Getty)

The government's final decision whether to block 21st Century Fox's takeover of Sky will be announced by 13 June, MPs have been told.

After more than a year of regulatory scrutiny, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) today delivered its final report on the deal to culture secretary Matt Hancock.

Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox is vying to buy the 61 per cent of Sky it does not already own. The US firm received the blessing of the Sky board in December 2016. But this support was withdrawn last week after NBC Universal owner Comcast launched its own bid to buy Sky.

Despite Murdoch's dealing being derailed by Comcast, the CMA ploughed on with its deep dive, or phase two, review.

Read more: Money or power? Fox has a decision to make in its Sky pursuit

"Today I received the final report from the CMA regarding the findings of their phase two investigation," Hancock told the House of Commons.

"Now that I have received this report, I must come to my decision and publish the report within 30 working days (by 13 June). My decision will be on whether the merger operates or may be expected to operate against the public interest, taking into account the specified public interest considerations of media plurality and genuine commitment to broadcasting standards.

When I have reached a decision I will return to parliament to make an oral statement. I will come to a view on whether to make a final order or accept any final undertakings in due course, and will consult on these publicly, but not before I have taken a decision on the public interest tests.

"Given my ongoing quasi-judicial role, I will not be making any comment about the substance of the report until I publish my decision."

Read more: Why Sky's Premier League victory is perfectly timed for Rupert Murdoch

Mirror-Express merger

Hancock also took the opportunity to update MPs on a separate media merger: between Trinity Mirror and Express owner Northern & Shell.

The culture secretary last week said he was "minded to" refer the deal to regulators on the basis of freedom of expression and the need for media plurality.

Today he rubber-stamped his statement, confirming two probes: broadcast regulator Ofcom will review media public interest considerations and the CMA will look into any competition issues. Both regulators have until 31 May to report back to Hancock.

He said: "I will then consider whether or not to refer the merger for a more detailed investigation, or whether to accept undertakings-in-lieu of such a reference.

"The role of the Secretary of State, in this process, is quasi-judicial and procedures are in place to ensure that I act independently and follow a process which is scrupulously fair and impartial."

Read more: Culture minister could intervene in Trinity Mirror-Northern & Shell deal

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