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21st Century Fox promises independent board for Sky News

21st Century Fox has promised a fully-independent board for Sky News and insulation of the service from possible editorial interference from the Murdoch family in a bid to secure approval for its planned takeover of Sky.

Rupert Murdoch

Fox’s proposal for a fully-independent board for the UK news channel goes a step beyond an earlier pledge to create a board with a majority of independent directors. However, it remains to be seen if the latest move will be enough to convince the country’s competition watchdog to OK the deal.

The Competition and Markets Authority issued a provisional ruling in January that Fox’s planned takeover of the 61% of Sky that it does not already own was not in the public interest.

The CMA said the bid raised a threat to media plurality because the Murdoch family would control too much of the UK media market should a deal go through, thanks to the Murdoch Family Trust’s influence over The SunSun on SundayThe Timesand Sunday Times newspapers.

The CMA noted that the “MFT’s news outlets are watched, read or heard by nearly a third of the UK’s population”, giving it “a combined share of the public’s news consumption that is significantly greater than all other news providers, except the BBC and ITN”.

The Murdochs have previously raised the threat that Sky News could be shut down if the acquisition of Sky fails to secure approval.

The issues raised by the planned takeover have been clouded somewhat by Disney’s planned acquisition of the bulk of 21st Century Fox. The CMA has said that the Disney deal can be taken into account when remedies are considered. It is not known whether Disney would commit to retaining the loss-making news channel if its acquisition of Fox goes through, however.