The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally found that Fox taking full control of Sky is “not in the public interest,” mainly because it would give the Murdoch family “too much control” over news providers in the U.K.
The CMA has been investigating the deal following a referral from the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on two grounds: media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards.
Regarding media plurality, the CMA has provisionally concluded that if the proposed mega-merger went ahead as currently proposed it is likely to operate “against the public interest.” The CMA said: “It would lead to the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT), which controls Fox and News Corporation, increasing its control over Sky, so that it would have too much control over news providers in the U.K. across all media platforms (TV, radio, online and newspapers), and therefore too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda.” Even though there are a range of other news outlets serving U.K. audiences, the CMA believes that they would “not be sufficient to moderate or mitigate the increased influence of the MFT” if the deal went ahead.
The CMA’s probe also examined a range of evidence to understand whether Fox, Sky and the MFT have a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards in the U.K. On these grounds, it has provisionally found that Fox taking full control of Sky is not likely to operate against the public interest.
Anne Lambert, chair of the independent investigation group, said: “Media plurality goes to the heart of our democratic process. It is very important that no group or individual should have too much control of our news media or too much power to affect the political agenda.
“We have provisionally found that if the Fox/Sky merger went ahead as proposed, it would be against the public interest. It would result in the Murdoch family having too much control over news providers in the U.K., and too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda.
“Our in-depth investigation also considered whether the deal would be against the public interest regarding broadcasting standards. Due to their existing track record in the U.K., and the range of policies and procedures the companies involved have in place to ensure broadcasting standards are met, we did not find public interest concerns in this regard.”
The CMA has now set out a series of potential options for addressing these problems. The CMA’s report will be finalized and provided to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport by May 1.