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Fox's Sky bid set to be referred to competition watchdog over standards
13 September 2017, 12:45 | Gordon Grant
Fox's Sky Deal: UK Plans In-Depth Review on Competition and Broadcasting Standards Grounds
"We urge the Secretary of State to take a final decision quickly". Ofcom is the regulator of record for broadcast standards, and it would be hard for the CMA to ignore its advice entirely.
The British government's intention to seek a full review of 21st Century Fox's bid for Sky is unlikely to derail the takeover, analysts say, even though opponents of the deal hailed the decision as a "golden opportunity" to sink the $15-billion agreement. The process ended up taking longer amid various submissions from all sorts of parties.
Sky's share price slumped, then partially recovered in the wake of the news, prompting one Sky News expert to speculate that investors are skeptical that the Fox deal will go through. Bradley didn't accept those conditions.
I have given the parties 10 working days to respond.
In her statement, the Culture Secretary also expressed what she said was a proper concern as to whether Fox will have a genuine commitment to attaining broadcasting standards objectives.
Bradley has written to both Fox and Sky to inform them that she is minded-to-refer the merger to the CMA over broadcasting standards issues, namely inadequate compliance procedures at Fox News and corporate governance failures. "Ofcom has now confirmed it considers this to raise non-fanciful concerns but which are not sufficiently serious to warrant referral". I consider that these non-fanciful concerns do warrant further consideration. Bradley said that the fact that Fox belatedly established such procedures did not ease her concerns, nor did Fox's compliance history.
Fox, which initially said it expected the deal to be done by the end of 2017, must pay a breakup fee of 200 million pounds if it isn't completed by August 2018.
One of them, former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, said Monday that Fox News should serve as a cautionary tale. I consider that these non-fanciful concerns do warrant further consideration. "These are matters the CMA may wish to consider in the event of a referral".
Corporate governance issues, although overlapping on broadcast standards, will be considered by the CMA.
Fox CEO James Murdoch and co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch have said that delays in approving the deal would suggest that the United Kingdom is not as "open for business" as it claims to be.
The CMA is set to appoint a panel of experienced competition lawyers and industry grandees who would give their recommendation to Ms Bradley. In an official corporate statement, Sky joined Fox in highlighting the difference of opinion between Ofcom and Bradley.
Sky shares were off 2 per cent at 933.5 pence at 2.13pm in London, their lowest since the deal was announced in December 2016.
The deal's progress has already been set back by the upheaval of the United Kingdom general election, the furore over racial and sexual harassment allegations at Fox News and obstruction by the deal's opponents.
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