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Fox bid for Sky subject to UK media plurality test

The proposed takeover of Sky by Twenty-First Century Fox is subject to a public interest test to be carried out by UK media regulator Ofcom.17 Mar 2017

Culture secretary Karen Bradley announced to parliament on Thursday that she has asked Ofcom to review the planned £11.7 billion deal, which was notified to the European Commission earlier this month.

Ofcom is due to report back to Bradley by 16 May and make a recommendation on whether the deal should be allowed to go ahead on public interest grounds.

In its public interest review, Ofcom will report on whether there would be "sufficient plurality of persons with control of the media enterprises" serving UK audiences should Fox complete a takeover of Sky. It will also consider whether the management at Fox "have a genuine commitment" to the attainment of the objectives of broadcasting standards outlined in UK communications laws.

In a consultation paper it has published, Ofcom said (6-page / 69KB PDF) it plans to consider plurality in the areas of news and current affairs. It said it intends to look at issues such as availability, consumption, impact and contextual factors, which could include governance and funding models as well as the potential power or editorial control exercised by owners, proprietors or senior executives.

In a separate legal process, Ofcom will also, by the same date, give a determination on whether Sky would remain a fit and proper holder of a broadcast licence in light of a change in control at the organisation which a takeover by Fox would bring.

"The grounds set out in the Enterprise Act that allow for intervention in media mergers are aimed at ensuring plurality of the media, which is essential to a healthy democracy," Bradley said. "I am also clear that the question of whether someone is fit and proper to hold a broadcasting licence is a different requirement, and one that, quite rightly, sits with Ofcom, the independent regulator."