Culture Secretary Karen Bradley has told parliament she is “minded” to refer 21st Century Fox’s merger with Sky to the Competition and Markets Authority.
She said she has to take this decision on a quasi-judicial basis and is bound by the evidence. Her decision cannot be based on her opinions, or on wider political considerations. The decision must be fair and impartial.
Bradley said Ofcom’s report into the bid raised public interest concerns because of the prospect of the Murdoch family having increased influence over the British media. This justifies a further investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority, she said. She is minded to order that. She has given both Fox and Sky until July 14th to respond.
If the Secretary does refer the merger the CMA will undergo a further 12-week inquiry into media plurality.
Bradley told the House that Ofcom’s report said it does not think there are broadcasting standards concerns that would justify a reference to the CMA. She said Ofcom found Fox’s compliance with standards was in line with other broadcasters’.
The Culture Secretary said Fox has already proposed some undertakings to Ofcom. They proposed setting up a separate editorial board for Sky News and have committed to keeping Sky New with current funding levels for five years.
Ofcom decided that these remedies would mitigate the plurality risk. Bradley said she has written to the parties saying she is minded not to accept these remedies.
Bradley has given the parties 10 days to make representations on her “minded to” decisions and stressed these are not her final decisions.
She also told the House that Ofcom will publish its report later today as to whether the Murdochs are “fit and proper” people to own a TV licence. Bradley said she has seen the report but she would not comment on it, because of her obligations to act in a quasi-judicial role.
She said it is for Ofcom to decide if broadcasters are “fit and proper”.