Fox’s bid for Sky to face standards and plurality investigation

Karen Bradley, the UK’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has today (Thursday) confirmed that she will refer the proposed takeover of European pay-television operator Sky by media company 21st Century Fox to the Competition and Markets Authority on the grounds of broadcasting standards and media plurality.

Bradley’s announcement came after she said on Tuesday that she was “minded” to refer the deal to market regulators over concerns about broadcasting standards. Bradley told the UK’s Parliament that the existence of “non-fanciful concerns” about compliance procedures at Fox News meant that the legal threshold for broadening the probe into the deal to include broadcasting standards had been satisfied.

The CMA now has 24 weeks in which to investigate the merger and provide Bradley with advice through which she will determine whether the deal can proceed, including any conditions that will apply in order to do so.

“Yesterday I received letters on behalf of both parties to the merger confirming that while they disagree with my minded-to decision, they would not be making substantive representations in relation to it,” Bradley said.

“As a result, I can confirm my final decision is to refer the merger to the CMA for a Phase 2 investigation on media plurality and genuine commitment to broadcasting standards grounds.”

Sky and Fox expressed their disappointment in the wake of Tuesday’s announcement, with the latter stating it was surprised Bradley had not followed the advice of UK communications regulator Ofcom, which said in June following a report that the evidence presented did not justify a broadcasting standards investigation.

Fox, which already owns 39 per cent of Sky, wants to secure full control of the company through an £11.7bn (€13bn/$15.5bn) deal.

Fox has already received regulatory approval in all other required territories for its proposed takeover of Sky, a major sports broadcaster in Austria, Germany, Italy and the UK and Ireland.