Rupert Murdoch has offered to sell Sky News or ring fence it in a bid to appease the UK media regulator and push through his takeover of Sky.
Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox has said Sky News could be sold on to Disney or become a legally separate business within the Sky group.
Fox agreed to buy the 61% of Sky it did not already own back in December 2016 but the deal has been repeatedly held up by the British government and regulators.
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The Competition and Markets Authority found the £11.7bn deal was not in the public interest. There are fears the takeover poses a threat to media plurality in Britain because the Murdoch family already reaches nearly one third of the population with Sky, The Sun and The Times.
In a bid to allay these fears, Fox has offered to make Sky News a distinct company within Sky. Fox has already promised Sky News would be free of editorial oversight from the Murdochs with an independent board.
“We believe that the enhanced firewall remedies we proposed to safeguard the editorial independence of Sky News addressed comprehensively and constructively the CMA’s provisional concerns,” Fox said in a statement.
Despite the new measures, “critics, including some high-profile politicians, remain adamantly opposed due to Murdoch’s record of influence through owning the Sun and the Times newspapers”, says Reuters.
Another option would be for Sky News to be sold to Disney.
Fox has separately agreed to sell a string of assets, including its 39% stake in Sky, to its US rival, “potentially taking Murdoch out of the Sky equation”, says Reuters.
If Sky News is sold to Disney or legally separated from the rest of Sky, “then the thorny issue of Murdoch control over Sky News - to add to the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times - is finally laid to rest”, says the BBC’s business editor Simon Jack, which would be “great news for Sky shareholders”.
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