February 18, 2019

Fox offers pledge on Sky News independence to clinch takeover bid

12 February 2018, 05:45 | Joann Bryant

Disney is pursuing a separate agreement to buy 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets – including its stake in Sky

Disney is pursuing a separate agreement to buy 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets – including its stake in Sky

21st Century Fox has proposed an independent editorial board for United Kingdom news channel Sky News as part of what it calls "firewall" remedies that it argues should help it seal its planned deal to take full control of European pay TV giant Sky.

21st Century Fox has offered a series of guarantees to secure backing for its takeover of British pay-TV operator Sky including a number of "firewall remedies" created to safeguard the independence of Sky News.

Fox has been trying to buy the 61% of Sky that it does not now own.

Broadcaster 21st Century Fox has offered to bolster editorial independence at Sky News as it tries to win regulatory backing for its bid to take control of the United Kingdom broadcaster.

If all its suggestions are enacted, Fox said, "there could be no circumstances in which...the [Murdoch Family Trust] or members of the Murdoch family could influence, whether directly or indirectly, the editorial line or policy of Sky News".

Last month the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) provisionally deemed that the Murdoch family would consequently have "too much control over news providers in the United Kingdom across all media platforms and therefore too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda".

Murdoch already owns three of Britain's biggest newspapers: The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times. Since the bid was revived, Disney has made an offer for a chunk of Fox's entertainment assets, which would include Sky if both the Fox-Sky and Disney-Fox deals go through. But the transaction has been held up by regulatory and government scrutiny in Britain, with the most recent snag being the competition authority's provisional warning of an adverse impact on media plurality if the takeover goes through as proposed.

The CMA will make its final decision about the Sky takeover, with a report submitted to Matthew Hancock, the Secretary of State, by May 1.

But last month, the regulator said a Fox-Sky deal was not in the public interest on grounds of media plurality.

In its own submission, Sky said it considered the remedies proposed by Fox - a structural separation of Sky News governance and editorial decision-making underpinned by robust behavioral commitments - would be an effective and comprehensive solution to the regulator's concerns.

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