21st Century’s Fox bid to take control of Sky is to be referred to Competition and Markets Authority after the culture secretary said concerns about the £11.7bn deal mean it needs further examination.
Karen Bradley told parliament she was minded to refer the deal to the competition regulator on the grounds of media plurality and on the grounds of commitment to broadcasting standards.
The £11.7 billion deal now faces a six-month investigation.
In June, the culture secretary said she was “minded” to refer the deal on media plurality but not broadcasting standards after Ofcom raised concerns about how dominant the Murdoch family could be in public life if they were allowed to own all of Sky.
Since then, Bradley has been under pressure from fellow MPs including Ed Miliband who had threatened to launch a judicial review if she did not refer the deal to the CMA on broadcasting standards.
Ofcom originally advised Bradley that the fit and proper and broadcasting standards elements of the deal did not warrant further probes, but the media plurality issues did. The details of Ofcom’s latest report to Bradley, likely referring to Fox News, will now be published.
Fox News ceased broadcasting in the UK last month.
In a statement responding to the culture secretary’s decision, Sky said, “We are disappointed by this further delay and that the Secretary of State is now minded to refer the proposed acquisition to the CMA in relation to broadcasting standards despite Ofcom, as the independent broadcast regulator, maintaining its advice that there are not sufficient concerns to justify such a reference. Nevertheless we will continue to engage with the process as the Secretary of State reaches her final decision.”