Former Labour leader Ed Miliband, former business secretary Vince Cable and influential campaign group Hacked Off have all voiced their opposition to the possibility of a 21st Century Fox takeover of Sky.
Although media analysts appear to believe the deal is unlikely to be blocked by regulators, the news has attracted a number of objections in the political world less than 24 hours after the two companies announced they were in talks.
Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox has until 6 January to make a formal offer for Sky, with the two companies having agreed a deal in principle of £10.75 per share for the 61 per cent stake Fox does not currently own.
Murdoch’s previous takeover attempt for Sky was withdrawn in 2011 at the height of the phone-hacking scandal. That approach was made by News Corporation. Since then, News Corporation has split into two companies: new News Corporation, comprising newspapers and publishing, and entertainment business 21st Century Fox.
Miliband was one of the first politicians to respond to news of the potential deal.
“Do we want Rupert Murdoch controlling even more of media landscape?” he tweeted. “No. Government must refer bid for Sky to CMA/ Ofcom. [Theresa May]: On Downing St steps you said you would stand up to the powerful. No better test than Murdoch bid for Sky. Over to you?”
Vince Cable, the former Liberal Democrat business secretary who referred Murdoch’s previous bid to regulators, said the latest takeover attempt “raises big media plurality issues” and called for Karen Bradley, the culture secretary, to intervene.
— Vince Cable (@vincecable) December 10, 2016
Labour’s Chris Bryant, the former shadow culture secretary, said: “It would be bad for our broadcasting ecology, for UK political life and for media plurality for Murdoch to be allowed to take back Sky.”
Meanwhile, Hacked Off – the influential press reform group backed by celebrities like Hugh Grant – said the bid should be scrutinised by broadcast regulator Ofcom “not only on competition grounds but on whether Rupert and James Murdoch continue to pass the ‘fit and proper person’ test”.