The British government yesterday referred a planned takeover of pan-European satellite TV giant Sky by Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox entertainment group to UK regulators for an in-depth probe. Karen Bradley, the Conservative government's minister for culture, media and sport, said she had referred the deal to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) owing to concerns about media plurality and broadcasting standards.
Last year, 21st Century Fox bid 11.4 billion pounds ($15.1 billion, 12.7 billion euros) for the 61-percent of Sky it does not already own. The takeover has already been approved by regulators in Austria, Germany, Ireland and Italy as well as the European Union, but not yet in Britain. The blockbuster deal has raised concerns in Britain about the influence of the Australian-born US tycoon over the country's media landscape, in addition to worries that the controversial reporting style of Murdoch's Fox News channel could be adopted by Britain's Sky News. Bradley told MPs yesterday that she was referring the deal for an "investigation on media plurality and genuine commitment to broadcasting standards grounds" after mulling for weeks on whether to proceed with such a probe.
"From the point of referral, the CMA has 24 weeks in which to investigate the merger and provide me with advice. I must then come to a final decision on whether or not the merger can proceed, including any conditions." A spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport said the referral would be put in place formally by the end of the week. Britain media watchdog Ofcom has warned of the "increased influence" the deal would give Murdoch over the country's media landscape. Britain's main opposition Labour party had meanwhile turned up the pressure on Bradley to act. Murdoch had previously failed in 2011 to buy the pay-TV group, then known as BSkyB, owing to a phone-hacking scandal at his now-defunct News of the World tabloid newspaper.