Wednesday 23 January 2019

Fox bids to close Sky deal with news channel pledge

Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch

Joe Mayes

Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox is sweetening its offer to UK regulators reviewing its takeover of Sky, raising the prospect that Disney would guarantee the future of the European broadcaster's news service.

Fox, which is in negotiations with competition authorities over its £11.7bn (€13.3bn) purchase of Sky, this week proposed a funding guarantee of at least 10 years for Sky News. Disney would inherit that commitment with its $52.4bn purchase of most of Fox's film and TV assets, including Sky.

The funding proposal is Fox's latest attempt to win approval for a deal that has been held up by additional scrutiny, after allegations of sexual and racial harassment at Fox News in the US and as a 2011 phone-hacking scandal at Murdoch's newspapers continued to dog the billionaire media tycoon.

UK regulators have been worried that a takeover of Sky would give Murdoch - whose News Corp owns 'The Times', 'The Sunday Times' and 'The Sun' newspapers in the UK and Ireland - too much sway over British media. Any closing of Sky News would also threaten media plurality, according to regulators.

That's put Fox in the difficult position of trying to find a way to keep the money-losing service alive while also insulating it from Murdoch's influence.

Fox's latest offer is part of a wider package of remedies, including an independent editorial board for Sky News, proposed in a letter published by the UK Competition & Markets Authority. (Bloomberg)

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