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THE government has cleared the way for Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox to take over of broadcaster Sky, so long as Sky News is sold “to a suitable third party.”
Fox is attempting to buy the 61 per cent of Sky that it does not already own, but the bid has raised concerns over competition and media plurality — and rival offers.
Today Culture Secretary Matt Hancock told Parliament he will now consult over the next 15 days to finalise details of the plans to divest Sky News before making a final decision.
But he said if terms of a sale of Sky News cannot be agreed, the “only effective remedy now would be to block the merger altogether.”
A separate £22 billion bid for Sky from US broadcasting giant Comcast was cleared by Mr Hancock, setting the stage for a bidding war with Fox.
Mr Hancock told MPs his decision was made to to address concerns raised by the Competition and Markets Authority over the possibility of “increased influence of the Murdoch Family Trust over public opinion and the UK’s political agenda,” should Fox get its hands on Sky News.
Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom (CPBF) national organiser Josef Davies-Coates said he was disappointed with the decision that leaves the future of Sky “up in the air.”
“Part of the problem is that Murdochs have had similar undertakings in the past and have broken promises,” he said.
Shadow culture secretary Tom Watson said a “bidding war … might be good for shareholders, but it’s the minister’s duty to protect the interest of the public.
“If there is any doubt about whether the proposed solution is workable, then it is the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that this merger is blocked.”
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