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Murdoch ‘expects Sky deal approval’ in first half of next year

James Murdoch

James Murdoch

21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch has said he expects the company’s acquisition of Sky to be approved by the UK competition watchdog in the first half of next year, despite the sexual harassment scandal that has engulfed Fox News and other concerns.

Murdoch reportedly made the remarks while appearing at the invitation-only Paley International Council Summit in New York.

Speaking at the event yesterday, Murdoch also referred to a New York Times report that former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly had struck a US$32 million settlement over allegations involving repeated sexual harassment, a non-consensual sexual relationship and the sending of explicit sexual material. According to the report, O’Reilly was subsequently granted a four-year extension to his contract with Fox for US$25 million a year.

Murdoch reportedly said the size of the settlement reached between O’Reilly and former Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl was “news to me” and that the company had not been involved in it. He said Fox was aware that O’Reilly had settled the case before his contract was renewed but that Fox did not know the size of the settlement.

UK competition watchdog the CMA is investigating Fox’s proposed acquisition of Sky on the grounds of media plurality and broadcasting standards, including whether the post-transaction group will have a “genuine commitment to broadcasting standards objectives”.

UK digital, culture, media and sport secretary of state Karen Bradley previously referred the deal to the CMA on public interest grounds, including concerns about broadcasting standards.