NUJ urges Government to oppose Murdoch take-over of Sky as 'significant threat to media plurality and standards'

The National Union of Journalists has warned that the 21st Century Fox bid to buy the 61 per cent of Sky it does not already own “poses a significant threat to media plurality and broadcasting standards”.

Secretary of State for Culture Karen Bradley has said she is “minded” to refer the £11.7bn bid to Ofcom but has yet to make a final decision.

UPDATE: The Government has referred the bid to Ofcom.

A previous bid by Rupert Murdoch’s media company to take control of Sky was abandoned in 2011 in the wake of the hacking scandal at the News of the World.

Since then News Corp has divided into two separate companies: 21st Century Fox (TV and film entertainment) and News Corp (newspapers and publishing).

The two companies have separate boards but are both controlled by the Murdoch family, which owns 39 per cent of the voting shares in each.

In a letter to the UK Government, NUJ acting general secretary Seamus Dooley said: “Any individual, family or company which dominates the media landscape is fundamentally damaging to democracy.

“In examining the proposed merger, Ofcom would have to consider the already unsatisfactory situation prevailing in the UK, where the provision of radio and television news is restricted to the BBC and two dominant players in the commercial sector.

“Sky and NewsCorp are the biggest commercial news producers in the UK and their combined influence gives cause for concern. For example, Sky News Radio is the main supplier of news to more than 280 commercial stations across the UK.

“Sky’s only real competitor in radio news production is the BBC. In television, there are now only two UK-based 24-hour television news channels – Sky News and the BBC News Channel.”

The NUJ also cites research by the Media Reform Coalition which it said “strongly suggests that, should the deal be allowed to progress, it will result in an unparalleled accumulation of media power in the hands of one family, posing a grave threat to media plurality in Britain for generations to come”.

Dooley said: “The determination of the Murdochs to extend their power, wealth and influence knows no bounds. We must ensure that at national and European levels every effort is made to halt the onward march of the Murdochs.”

The NUJ is being backed by the International Federation of Journalists.

IFJ general secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “Media plurality is a cornerstone of democracy.

“Without it, all the talk of a free and independent media is nothing but empty words. We want to see action at a UK and European level, not just to defend but also to extend media plurality and diversity.”

21st Century Fox has said that the Media Reform Coalition analysis is wrong and that News Corp has dropped from being the second largest UK news provider in 2010 to seventh in 2016.

It also said that Daily Mail and General Trust, rather than News Corp, is the UK’s dominant national newspaper publisher when free daily Metro is taken into account.

Fox also contends that the Murdoch family’s possible future control of Sky has been over stated.

It said their “relationship with Sky will continue to be through a listed company – 21CF – with other shareholders and its own board comprising a majority of independent directors”.

Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan are joint chairman of both 21st Century Fox and News Corp. Murdoch’s other son James is chief executive of Fox.

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