Government seeks 'clarification' from Ofcom on Sky takeover evidence

Posted On: 
8th August 2017

The Culture Secretary has requested advice from Ofcom over her plan to refer Fox’s takeover of Sky for a full competition inquiry. 

Rupert Murdoch's 20th Century Fox is bidding to take full control of Sky
PA Images

Karen Bradley announced in June that she was “minded to” ask the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to investigate the £11.7bn deal amid concerns on media plurality.

After reviewing thousands of representations, the minister has today written to media regulator Ofcom to request “further clarification” before she makes a final decision on whether to refer the matter to the CMA.

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Ofcom had previously said the deal raised “public interest concerns” stemming from the prospect of “increased influence by members of the Murdoch Family Trust over the UK news agenda and the political process”.

21st Century Fox wants to buy up the 61% of shares it does not already own in the broadcaster, giving Australian tycoon Rupert Murdoch complete control of Sky News and pay-TV channels in the UK.

A statement from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said Ofcom had been asked to respond to the letter by 25 August.

“After assessing the large number of representations made in relation to the Secretary of State’s referral decision, a number of these raise new evidence and/or comment on the Ofcom assessment,” the department said.

“Any referral decision by the Secretary of State must be taken on the basis of a valid assessment of all the relevant evidence.

“For this reason the DCMS has asked Ofcom to advise on a number of points arising from these representations. The Department has asked that the advice is provided as soon as possible and no later than 25 August 2017.

“All effort continues to carry out this process in a transparent and timely way. The Department’s letter to Ofcom and Ofcom’s response will be published in due course.”

Before Parliament broke up for its summer recess, Ms Bradley told MPs she remained minded to refer the bid to the CMA – but had not yet made a full assessment of all the responses.