Wednesday 12 December 2018

Pressure on Murdoch as Fox offices are raided

The British offices of the Murdoch entertainment empire 21st Century Fox have been raided by investigators from the European Commission. (stock photo)
The British offices of the Murdoch entertainment empire 21st Century Fox have been raided by investigators from the European Commission. (stock photo)

Christopher Williams

The British offices of the Murdoch entertainment empire 21st Century Fox have been raided by investigators from the European Commission.

It is understood competition watchdogs entered the company's offices in London to seize documents and computer records.

The precise nature of the confidential investigation, which is believed to be in its early stages, is unclear. The building is home to Fox Networks, the company's channels business.

The European Commission confirmed it is investigating media companies across the EU over a suspected cartel in sports rights distribution and broadcasting.

Investigators are able to take copies of documents and computer records, and ask for explanations from executives.

Sources at the offices, shared with the tobacco company Philip Morris among others, said commission officials were attempting to keep a low profile and that staff had been warned to keep details of the raid secret. It is understood that investigators are expected to remain on site through today and possibly tomorrow.

The raid comes at a extremely sensitive time for Fox as it seeks a remedies agreement with British watchdogs at the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to secure its heavily delayed takeover of Sky.

The CMA is considering an offer from the Murdoch family to spin off Sky News into a separate company or sell it to Disney to assuage concerns that full control of Sky will give them too much sway over the British media. The deal has already been approved by the European Commission.

Following an investigation into the impact of full Murdoch control on the public interest in media plurality in the UK, the CMA is due to make recommendations to the Culture Secretary Matt Hancock by next month on whether to allow or block the deal.

A Fox spokesman said: "Fox Networks Group is cooperating fully with the EC inspection."

A Commission spokesman said: "Unannounced inspections are a preliminary step into suspected anticompetitive practices.

"The fact that the Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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