Tuesday, 21 November, 2017

Fox's Sky Bid Hits New Bump: Government Raises Broadcasting Standards Concerns

Workers ride on a Sky employee shuttle bus near their headquarters in west London Workers ride on a Sky employee shuttle bus near their headquarters in west London
Theodore Harris | 13 September, 2017, 00:20

While, the UK's broadcast regulator, Ofcom, has previously expressed concerns that if the Murdock family took over the entire of Sky it may have too much power over the UK's media ecosystem. Ofcom had, in June, been unequivocal in its findings that a merged Fox and Sky would have a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards.

Before I come to a final decision, I am required - under the Enterprise Act 2002 - to allow the parties to make representations on my proposed decision, and this is the reason my decision at this stage remains a minded-to one. However, around 30 letters contained new information which prompted her to ask broadcast regulator Ofcom reinvestigate the issue and report back.

Bradley summarized: "My proper concern is whether Fox will have a genuine commitment to attaining broadcasting standards objectives".

The existence of non-fanciful concerns means that - as a matter of law - the threshold for a reference on the broadcasting standards ground is met.

"Whilst we were concerned by Fox News' lack of adequate procedures for broadcast compliance, we consider we did afford it sufficient weight in considering the question of whether there is a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards by Fox in this country", Ofcom said.

One of them, former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, said Monday that Fox News should serve as a cautionary tale.

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Bradley still has ten days before her decision is finalised and the deal could still be given the go-ahead.

Bradley is expected to speak around 1330 local time. She remarked that she had outstanding non-fanciful concerns about these matters and was of the view that they should be further considered by the CMA.

On broadcasting standards, the CMA would have to weigh the relevance of recent revelations of alleged misconduct at Fox News, including claims of fabricated quotes for a story and alleged instances of racial and sexual harassment. However, I am not confident that weaknesses in Fox's corporate governance arrangements are incapable of affecting compliance in the broadcasting standards context.

Rupert Murdoch's attempts to takeover Sky television will face increased scrutiny, with the £11.7 billion takeover bid being referred to the UK's competition regulator.

To seal the deal, Fox had earlier this summer proposed conditions, or "undertakings", focused on maintaining the editorial independence of Sky News by establishing a separate editorial board, with a majority of independent members, that would oversee the appointment of the head of Sky News and any changes to Sky News editorial guidelines.

James Murdoch and Fox co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch had previously warned that any delay would signal to other companies that the United Kingdom isn't "open for business" as the country leaves the European Union.

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