Ofcom submits Sky takeover report to culture secretary

UK regulator Ofcom has submitted its public interest report on the proposed acquisition of Sky by 21st Century Fox to the government, with culture, media and sport secretary of state Karen Bradley expected to reveal whether the deal will be referred to the country’s competition watchdog by June 29.

Ofcom was asked to consider whether the deal would leave sufficient plurality of media ownership as well as whether the parties involved had a genuine commitment to the attainment of broadcasting standards objectives.

Karen Bradley

Karen Bradley

Bradley must now decide whether to refer the acquisition to the Competition and Markets Authority for a ‘phase two’ enquiry. Ofcom’s public interest report will be published at the same time as her decision is announced.

Ofcom has also submitted its assessment of whether the management of 21st Century Fox are ‘fit and proper’ persons to hold a UK broadcasting licence. Ofcom carried out this assessment on its own initiative but its investigation overlapped with the public interest report.

Deputy Labour Party leader Tom Watson has meanwhile publicly called on Bradley to refer the takeover to the CMA, arguing that the deal has the potential to transform the UK media market.

21st Century Fox’s previous attempt to take full control of Sky, in which it holds a 39% stake, in 2010, foundered in the wake of the phone hacking scandal. Prior to that, the culture secretary at the time, Jeremy Hunt, had accepted an offer to make Sky News more independent as being sufficient to allay media plurality concerns.

Since that deal, Sky has transformed into a multinational pay TV operator, controlling services in Germany and Italy as well as the UK.