Speed Reads

Mergers and acquisitions

Britain's competition regulator rules that Murdoch's purchase of Sky is 'not in the public interest'

On Tuesday, Britain's top competition regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), provisionally rejected 21st Century Fox's bid to buy 61 percent of satellite broadcaster Sky because it is "not in the public interest." The CMA was looking at two questions — would the proposed merger lower broadcasting standards in Britain and would it give Rupert Murdoch and his family too much control over British media and opinion; it said no to the first question and yes to the second. Sky, owner of Sky News, and Fox will respond to CMA's objections and proposed workarounds, and Culture Secretary Matt Hancock will make the final decision by the middle of May.

Murdoch has been trying for years to purchase full control of Sky, which he launched in the early 1990s, and in December 2016 he made a $16.3 billion offer. But the CMA noted that the Murdoch Family Trust controls news outlets watched or read by nearly a third of the U.K.'s population. "Media plurality goes to the heart of our democratic process," Anne Lambert, chairwoman of the CMA's independent investigation group, told BBC News. "It is very important that no group or individual should have too much control of our news media or too much power to affect the political agenda."

The CMA said that to mitigate its media plurality concerns, 21st Century Fox could call off the deal, sell or divest Sky News, or put in place "behavioral remedies" to wall off Sky News from Murdoch Family Trust interference. Murdoch's sale of most 21st Century Fox assets to the Walt Disney Co., if completed, could also mitigate those concerns.