Fox pledges on Sky News independence to win bid clearance

Monday, 12 Feb, 2018

Sky is already 39%-owned by 21 Century Fox, which is in turn controls News Corporation, publishers of The Times and the Sun. It added that it would establish a "fully independent" editorial board to oversee the news channel, which would oversee the appointment of the head of Sky News, who would have "sole responsibility for setting editorial strategy and direction for Sky News' digital, television and radio output, including the appointment and dismissal of senior Sky News employees".

Fox also pledged to keep funding Sky-branded news services for at least five years.

Last month, the CMA provisionally ruled that the takeover would raise media plurality concerns on the basis that Rupert Murdoch would exert excessive influence over the United Kingdom news media.

The "firewall remedies" were revealed in documents published by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

21st Century Fox Inc. bolstered remedies in a bid to win regulatory approval for its takeover of European pay-TV broadcaster Sky Plc, seeking to address concerns that the deal would give billionaire Rupert Murdoch too much influence over British media.

The provisional CMA report raised concerns about the influence of the Murdoch family trust, which controls Fox and News Corp, over the United Kingdom media landscape.

"The combined effect of the Proposed Firewall Remedies is that there could be no circumstances in which, post-transaction, the MFT (Murdoch family trust) or members of the Murdoch family could influence, whether directly or indirectly, the editorial line or policy of Sky News", the company said.

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

Meanwhile Walt Disney is pursuing a separate agreement to buy 21 Century Fox's entertainment assets - including its 39% stake in Sky.

The CMA recommended three options: protecting Sky News from Fox's influence, spinning off or divesting Sky News outright, or blocking the deal.

"The proposed remedies (.) decisively eliminate the source of the CMA's provisional concerns - potential MFT influence over Sky News' editorial decision-making", it said.

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. In that case, the concessions offered by Fox to safeguard Sky News would fall away, as the Murdoch family would not be in control of Sky's new parent company, Disney.