Britain’s cultural secretary has given the green light to Rupert Murdoch (pictured) and 21st Century Fox’s bid for European media co Sky on the condition that Sky News be sold off.
In a statement from British MP Matt Hancock, cultural secretary, on Tuesday (June 5), he suggested the bid met the “threshold for a relevant merger situation” but reiterated some potential repercussions of the amalgamation previously cited by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA): the merger between Fox and Sky potentially resulting in the “erosion of Sky News’ editorial independence” and the possibility of the increased influence of the Murdoch Family trust over public opinion and the country’s “political agenda.”
Therefore, the cultural secretary said he wants to ensure that Sky News remains financially viable over the long-term; operates as a major UK-based news provider; and remains editorially independent.
“I agree with the CMA that divesting Sky News to Disney, as proposed by Fox, or to an alternative suitable buyer, with an agreement to ensure it is funded for at least 10 years, is likely to be the most proportionate and effective remedy for the public interest concerns that have been identified,” he said.
Turning towards Comcast’s bid for Sky, Hancock said he saw no need to intervene in that as it did not meet the threshold for intervention and “does not raise public interest concerns.”
The UK government’s decision to clear both Fox and Comcast in purchasing Sky could trigger a bidding war between the media conglomerates.
In May 2018, Comcast announced its intentions to purchase Sky for a whopping £22 billion (approximately US$31 billion). Meanwhile, 21st Century Fox made its offer in December of 2016 to acquire the 61% of the European pay-TV co that it didn’t already own.
Murdoch faced a slew of challenges in his bid to purchase Sky over concerns of media concentration. In March 2017, UK’s secretary of state for culture, media and sport issued an European intervention notice, which asked the UK media regulator Ofcom to report on two issues of public interest around 21st Century Fox’s plan to acquire Sky – mainly whether there would be enough media plurality in ownership and if Fox would be committed to maintaining broadcasting standards.