Matt Hancock says Fox takeover of Sky to be blocked unless news channel sold on

Posted On: 
5th June 2018

Matt Hancock has said the proposed takeover of Sky by Fox will be blocked unless the company sells off its news channel.

Matt Hancock tells MPs of his decision in the Commons.
PA Images

The Culture Secretary said selling the news channel to Disney or another firm, would likely be the “most proportionate and effective remedy” to allow the Government to approve the bid.

Mr Hancock's intervention in the long-running saga comes after the Competition and Markets Authority provisionally blocked Rupert Murdoch’s firm's attempt to take over the 61% they do not own, saying it would leave them with too much control over the UK media.

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However Mr Hancock also gave the green light to Comcast to proceed with their rival bid, saying there were no public interest concerns over the company’s potential control.

The Secretary of State said that ministers would need assurances that whichever firm buys out the rolling news channel can fund it for “at least ten years”.

"I need to be confident that the final undertakings ensure that Sky News remains financially viable over the long-term, is able to operate as a major UK-based news provider and is able to take its editorial decisions independently, free from any potential outside influence.

"As a result, I have asked my officials to begin immediate discussions with the parties to finalise the details with a view to agreeing an acceptable form of the remedy, so we can all be confident Sky News can be divested in a way that works for the long term."

He added: "I am optimistic that we can achieve this goal, not least given the willingness 21st Century Fox has shown in developing these credible proposals.

"However, if we can’t agree terms at this point, then I agree with the CMA that the only effective remedy now would be to block the merger altogether. This is not my preferred approach."

Mr Hancock said ministers “will not be issuing an intervention notice” on the proposed merger with Comcast, which launched a £22bn takeover bid in February, as it “does not raise public interest concerns”.

He added that the Government hoped to end the regulatory process on the merger ahead of the summer recess.

Disney has separately struck a deal to buy Fox’s entertainment assets, including its stake in Sky.

Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson said Labour wanted assurances that Sky News would remain "a beacon of rigorous and independent journalism".

“We have serious concerns about this, including how we secure the long-term future of Sky News as a UK-based independent organisation under this option," he said.

“Were the Fox-Disney merger to fail it could lead Sky News isolated from Sky and owned by a foreign company with few news interests in the UK. It’s hard to see how that would be in the public interest.”