Fox pledges on Sky News independence to win bid clearance

Angelo Anderson
February 12, 2018

Last month, the CMA provisionally ruled that the takeover would raise media plurality concerns on the basis that Rupert Murdoch would exert excessive influence over the United Kingdom news media. Fox also reiterated a previous proposal for "a commitment to Sky-branded news services in the United Kingdom for at least five years with similar levels of investment".

Sky is already 39%-owned by 21 Century Fox, which is in turn controls News Corporation, publishers of The Times and the Sun.

The US company has offered to set up an independent editorial board for Sky News, and to continue funding the service for at least five years. Only the board would be able to hire and fire the head of Sky News and senior employees, including presenters.

Fox's submission said it was also willing to offer "a commitment that no employee or officer of 21st Century Fox, or a member of the 21st Century Fox board who is a trustee or beneficiary of the Murdoch Family Trust, will influence or attempt to influence the editorial choices made by the head of Sky News (including the selection or running of news stories or the political comment and opinion to be broadcast on the Sky News services)". An independent editorial board will also be put in place following concerns over media plurality.

The CMA is also weighing other options for protecting the independence of Sky News, such as blocking the Fox deal, or seeking a legal separation or full sale of the news division.

Disney's proposed takeover, which still has to be approved by United States regulators, includes Fox's current 39 per cent stake in Sky.

In its response to the CMA, Sky said it considered Fox's proposals would be "an effective and comprehensive solution to any potential concerns".

But last month, the regulator said a Fox-Sky deal was not in the public interest on grounds of media plurality. In that case, the concessions offered by Fox to safeguard Sky News would fall away, as the Murdoch family would not be in control of Sky's new parent company, Disney.

It raised the prospect of behavioural remedies including the ones disclosed on Monday, or a more far-reaching structural solution such as the spin-off or divestiture of Sky News.

The CMA's final report will be submitted to culture Secretary Matt Hancock by 1 May, and he has said he will make a decision on the deal by 14 June.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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