UK regulator temporarily blocks Fox’s $11bn takeover of Sky
In a blow to Australian-born American media mogul Rupert Murdoch, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally blocked 21st Century Fox’s $11.7 billion bid to acquire British broadcaster Sky on the grounds that it goes against the “the public interest.”
In its Tuesday announcement, the CMA concluded that Fox’s bid to buy 61 percent of Sky that it does not already own would give the American outfit “too much control over new providers across all media platforms” in the UK.
This, in turn, gives the Murdochs “too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda,” the CMA further argued.
The Murdoch Family Trust (MFT), which controls Fox and News Corporation, owns a range of networks and media outlets that are collectively viewed by a third of the British audience.
Having full control over sky increases the MFT’s combined share of the public’s news consumption to an extent that it outdoes every other UK outlet except BBC and ITN, the CMA said.
“While there are a range of other news outlets serving UK audiences, the CMA has provisionally found that they would not be sufficient to moderate or mitigate the increased influence of the MFT if the deal went ahead,” the government organization further explained.
The CMA deemed Fox, Sky and the MFT genuinely committed to the UK broadcasting standards.
It also investigated the recent allegations of sexual harassment against Fox News employees in the US and “found that these are not directly related to the attainment of broadcasting standards.”
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has decided to stop airing the conservative US channel in the UK.
This puts the deal’s fate into the hands of Matt Hancock, Britain’s minister of culture and media, who have the final say on the bid.
While he can certainly give the transaction a green light, there is a good chance that the Tory government would drop it to avoid accusations of cozying up to the Murdochs.
In August last year, 21st Century Fox took Fox News off the air in Britain after failing to appeal to the British audience.
Sources said that the channel was attracting only around 2,000 viewers a day after being aired in the UK for 15 years.
While the company insisted that viewership was the only reason behind the decision, experts deemed it as a strategic move by Murdoch to protect his bid for Sky.