Showing no sign of backing down, 21st Century Fox Inc. continued its years-long efforts to acquire full control of British’s satellite broadcaster, Sky. As part of its latest effort, Fox pledges to extend the period of its guarantee to maintain and fund a fully independent news service at Sky for up to ten years, instead of five.
Fox’s extended guarantee period is a response to the concern raised by UK’s Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA), which found that Fox’s bid to take over the remaining 61% of Sky was not in the public interest. According to the CMA, this deal would give the Murdoch family too much control over news providers in the UK and therefore too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda. The Murdoch family already controls Fox and News Corp – the publisher of the Sun and the Times.
A 10-year funding guarantee itself is not actually a new strategy for Fox, as its Executive Chairman, Rupert Murdoch, had offered a similar guarantee when he bought a chunk of Sky News in 2011. However, the current offer is alleged to be weaker than the one in 2011 as Fox clarified that the funding for the second five-year period will be “determined at the time, taking into account market conditions and the level of investment required to maintain a Sky-branded news service.”
Along with the extended guarantee period, Fox also offered other remedies to address CMA’s concerns. One of the highlighted remedies is the requirement for Sky News’s board to prepare an annual statement confirming that the head of Sky News had escalated influence over the editorial output of Sky News.
The CMA must hand over the final report on this Fox-Sky deal investigation to the current Culture Secretary, Matt Hancock, by May 1. Hancock will then have 30 days to make a final decision on whether or not the deal may proceed.