Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has upped his pledge to maintain a Sky-branded news service from five years to “at least ten years” in revised submissions to the UK’s competition watchdog.
The pledge is a bid to smooth over concerns that Murdoch’s £12bn proposed takeover of Sky, for the 61 per cent he doesn’t already own, is not in the public interest on media plurality grounds.
That was the outcome of a provisional ruling by the Competition and Markets Authority, which has been reviewing the deal, last month.
The CMA expressed concerns that the merger would lead to Murdoch Family Trust, which controls Fox and News Corp (ultimate owners of the Sun and Times newspapers), having “too much control over news providers in the UK across all media platforms and therefore too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda”.
In a list of remedies to the CMA sent in response to the ruling, Murdoch initially pledged to maintain “equivalent levels of investment” to those currently being made in a “Sky-branded news service” over five years.
He also offered a commitment to establish a “fully independent” and “expert” Sky News Editorial Board, which alone would oversee the appointment of the head of Sky News, in a bid to install protocols that put some distance between editorial decision-making and the Murdoch family.
In revised remedies, issued today and seen by Press Gazette, lawyers for Fox said: “The duration of the commitment to maintain a Sky-branded news service has been extended from at least five years to at least ten years” including a further five years of investment “at a level to be determined”.
Other changes include those to the editorial board, which is now to be known as the Sky News Board.
It will be required on an annual basis to prepare a statement “confirming that no instances of influence or attempted influence or attempted influence of the editorial output of Sky News have been escalated to it by the head of Sky News”.
The board will also have the “explicit right” to nominate a candidate for the role of head of Sky News.
If these remedies are accepted by the CMA and the deal goes ahead, Sky will in fact be owned by Disney following its sale to the US company, along with other assets, in a surprise move by Murdoch in December last year.
The deal, worth $52.4bn (£39bn), will see Disney acquired the 39 per cent of Sky currently owned by Fox and “full ownership” of the broadcaster if and when the Sky takeover bid is completed.
Picture: Reuters:/Stefan Wermuth