Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox has pledged to ensure the independence of Sky News as it seeks to overcome issues surrounding its plans to takeover Sky.
The company said it would commit to maintain Sky News for at least five years and would establish a fully independent board for the channel. Fox has been trying to buy the 61% of Sky that it does not currently own. But last month, the regulator said a Fox-Sky deal was not in the public interest on grounds of media plurality. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) provisionally found that if the deal went ahead as planned, it would give the Murdoch family too much control over news providers in the UK. However, the CMA found the deal would not be against the public interest on the grounds of broadcasting standards. At the time, the CMA put forward possible remedies to address the plurality concerns, which were:
- stopping the deal going through
- spinning off or selling off Sky News
- insulating Sky News from the Murdoch Family Trust’s (MFT) influence
Fox’s proposals regarding Sky News were made in response to the list of possible remedies, and were released by the CMA. In its response to the CMA, Sky said it considered Fox’s proposals would be “an effective and comprehensive solution to any potential concerns”. The competition regulator is due to present its final report to Culture Secretary Matt Hancock by 1 May, and he has said he will make a decision on the deal by 14 June. The picture has been complicated by the announcement in December that Disney had agreed to buy most of Fox’s business, so may end up owning Sky. Disney’s proposed takeover, which still has to be approved by US regulators, includes Fox’s current 39% stake in Sky. If the Sky-Fox deal does finally go through, the whole of Sky would be likely to transfer to Disney’s ownership.