Fox’s £11.7bn Sky bid set for Ofcom scrutiny amid public interest fears

The proposed £11.7 billion Fox takeover of Sky is likely to be referred to the UK’s communications regulator Ofcom for further examination.

UK Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said she is ‘minded to’ bring in Ofcom to take a closer look at whether competition and broadcasting standards would be threatened by the highly contentious merger.

After Rupert Murdoch’s Fox notified the European Commission of its plans to acquire the 61% of Sky it doesn’t yet own, Bradley immediately addressed the issue of Ofcom intervention.

She wrote in a statement: “I have, today, written to the parties to inform them that I am ‘minded to’ issue a European intervention notice on the basis that I have concerns that there may be public interest considerations.”

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Although she has ten days to make a final decision on Ofcom intervention, Bradley said any regulatory scrutiny would be on public interest grounds under the Enterprise Act, relating to concentration of ownership and commitment to maintaining broadcasting standards.

She added: “This ground relates to the need for persons carrying on media enterprises, and for those with control of such enterprises, to have a genuine commitment to attaining broadcasting standards objectives.”

Ofcom would have 40 working days to examine the deal and raise any concerns over the merger, which must then be addressed by Fox before the takeover could be approved.

The controversial plans have raised fears Sky could become a vehicle for the Murdoch’s political agendas.

Shadow culture secretary Tom Watson said (via FT): “It is clear that Fox’s bid to take full control of Sky will significantly increase the size of the biggest media organisation in the UK and further concentrate power in the hands of a dominant industry player.”

Fox’s new bid comes four years after similar plans were abandoned at the height of the phone hacking scandal involving Murdoch-owned newspapers in the UK.

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