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Major blow for Rupert Murdoch as 'political influence' fears delay Sky takeover bid

Major blow for Rupert Murdoch as 'political influence' fears delay Sky takeover bid

Agnes Chambre

2 min read

Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch suffered a major setback today after it emerged his £11.7bn plan to take full control of Sky would be probed by the competition watchdog.


Culture Secretary Karen Bradley announced she was "minded to" refer the bid by 20th Century Fox to the Competitions and Markets Authority.

Her decision follows a damning verdict by media regulator Ofcom that the deal could risk "increased influence by members of the Murdoch Family Trust over the UK news agenda and the political process".

20th Century Fox wants to buy up the 61% of shares it does not already own in the broadcaster, giving the Australian tycoon complete control of Sky News and pay-TV channels in the UK.

But Ofcom raised serious concerns over media plurality - as Mr Murdoch already owns two major UK papers - and said 20th Century Fox would end up providing 10% of the nation's news.

Its report said: "The transaction raises public interest concerns as a result of the risk of increased influence by members of the Murdoch Family Trust over the UK news agenda and the political process, with its unique presence on radio, television, in print and online."

Ms Bradley told the Commons today: "The reasoning and evidence on which Ofcom’s recommendation is based are persuasive. 

"The proposed entity would have the third largest total reach of any news provider - lower only than the BBC and ITN - and would, uniquely, span news coverage on television, radio, in newspapers and online...

"These are clear grounds whereby a referral to a Phase 2 investigation is warranted -  so that is what I am minded-to do."

20th Century Fox has until 14 July to respond before Ms Bradley makes her final decision.

Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson tore into the Government, saying Ms Bradley was "following the dance steps" and would eventually give the deal the green light.

He accused the Tories of having an “implicit bargain” with the Murdoch empire to deliver Theresa May an election victory in exchange for the Sky deal and other sweeteners.

But he added: “Rupert Murdoch hasn’t delivered his side of the bargain, has he? His papers may have done their best to urge a Tory landslide but he just couldn’t follow through."

He said the election result showed the Tories no longer needed the media mogul and were now "free" to "do the right thing" - including launching part two of the Leveson inquiry.

Elsewhere, Ofcom said there it had no concerns about the Sky bid with regard to broadcasting standards.

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