CAMPAIGNERS welcomed the competition watchdog’s provisional rejection of Rupert Murdoch’s £11.7 billion takeover bid for Sky today on the grounds that it would hand him too much control over British media output.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it had found that 21st Century Fox’s deal to buy out the remaining 61 per cent of Sky it does not already own was “not in the public interest.”
The CMA investigation found that if the deal went ahead, it would hand the Murdoch Family Trust – which controls Fox and News Corp, the publisher of the Sun and the Times – “too much control over news providers in the UK across all media platforms … and therefore too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda.”
It said Fox met the required broadcasting standards, despite the phone-hacking scandal at the Murdoch-controlled News of the World tabloid and allegations of sexual harassment at Fox News in the US.
But the CMA said the deal would compromise media plurality in Britain, meaning that, overall, the deal went against the public interest.
National Union of Journalists president Tim Dawson said: “It is reassuring that the CMA, having given this proposed takeover deep consideration, has come to the same conclusion as have all those of us who care about media plurality and press freedom.”
The provisional decision could thwart Mr Murdoch’s plans to take full ownership of Sky for the second time, after his first attempt was abandoned following the phone-hacking scandal.
The CMA offered suggestions as to how Fox could address its concerns, including spinning off Sky News or making “behavioural” changes to protect Sky News from direct influence from the Murdoch Family Trust.
But the deal remains in the hands of new Culture Secretary Matt Hancock, who will decide whether to block it or approve it, possibly with conditions.
Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom spokesman Josef Davies-Coates said: “We welcome the ruling.
“But we think it’s important to keep up the pressure to ensure [Mr] Hancock reaches the same conclusions.”
Labour’s shadow culture secretary Tom Watson said he hoped the ruling “finally puts paid to this bid.”
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