Fox/Sky Deal: UK Authority To Examine Potential Influence On News, Politics


21st Century Fox has welcomed a statement from the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority which today set out more detail about what it intends to examine in its investigation into the proposed takeover of Sky by Fox. Among the key areas are how the Murdoch Family Trust’s control over Sky News might change after a merger; what potential influence the MFT would have on the political agenda; and Fox, Sky, the MFT and News Corp’s approach to corporate governance.

In September, UK Culture Secretary Karen Bradley referred Fox’s £11.7B takeover bid for Sky to the CMA for review on the grounds of media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards. It was the latest in a long series of roadbumps for Rupert Murdoch’s attempt to buy the long-coveted 61% of pay-TV giant Sky that Fox does not already own.

Part of that decision had been expected, but the broadcasting standards review came as something of a surprise. Around the time, third parties had raised concerns about what they termed the “Foxification” of Fox-owned news outlets internationally.

Today’s so-called “issues statement” from the CMA sets out the proposed approach to assessing the impact of the merger. The org has called for anyone wanting to provide submissions to do so based on the areas and questions outlined in the statement.

The CMA notably says it welcomes views and evidence on the current approach of Fox, Sky, the Murdoch Family Trust and News Corp to compliance with broadcasting standards; and the approach of the parties to effective corporate governance and other applicable regulations, including regulations relating to the treatment of employees, in the UK and overseas.

With respect to media plurality, the CMA is assessing whether there will be a sufficient plurality of people with control of Fox’s media enterprises serving UK audiences after the transaction. Along with the general landscape of news consumption in the UK, two key questions here are whether and how the ability of the Murdoch Family Trust to control or influence editorial and commercial decisions at Sky News will change as a result of the merger; and whether and how the ability of the MFT to influence the political agenda will change as a result of the transaction.

(In June, analysts told Deadline that the media plurality issue could be resolved if Fox made certain remedies or undertakings in lieu. In late August, Fox News went dark in the UK, citing a lack of commercial interest given low viewership.)

The CMA is required to report back with its recommendations within six months of opening the investigation.

The full Fox statement from today is below:

“21st Century Fox (21CF) welcomes the publication by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) of the Issues Statement. We look forward to the CMA process and engaging in a thorough and constructive review.”

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