British regulator to investigate Sky takeover by Murdoch's Fox

Thu Mar 16, 2017 10:41am EDT
 
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By Paul Sandle

LONDON (Reuters) - The British government has referred Rupert Murdoch's planned 11.7 billion pound ($14.4 billion) takeover of European pay-TV group Sky to regulators to decide if the deal is in the public interest.

Media Secretary Karen Bradley told parliament it was important to seek advice from the regulator Ofcom on whether the deal would give Murdoch and his companies too much control of Britain's media, and whether the new owner would be committed to broadcasting standards.

Murdoch's U.S. TV business Twenty-First Century Fox already owns 39 percent of Sky. Murdoch and his family have long coveted full control of Sky, despite the damaging failure of a previous attempt in 2011 when their British newspaper business became embroiled in a phone-hacking scandal.

Bradley has given Ofcom a 40-day timetable to investigate, and expects to receive its report by May 16.

She said Ofcom, as an independent regulator, would assess in the same time frame whether Murdoch's company was a "fit and proper" holder of a broadcasting license.

Twenty-First Century Fox said it was looking forward to working with British authorities in their reviews of the deal, and it believed it would be approved.

"We are confident that a thorough review of our track record over 30 years will underscore our commitment to upholding high broadcast standards, and will demonstrate that the transaction will not result in there being insufficient plurality in the UK," the company said on Thursday.

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The flag of the Twenty-First Century Fox Inc is seen waving at the company headquarters in the Manhattan borough in New York June 11, 2015.  REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo