Culture Secretary Matt Hancock has said he is minded not to intervene in US broadcast giant Comcast’s bid to takeover Sky, an offer that has put it in direct competition with Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.
Hancock said in a statement today that the proposed merger “does not raise concerns in relation to public interest considerations which would meet the threshold for intervention”.
The decision appears to clear the way for Comcast’s £22bn ($31bn) bid to buy the whole of Sky. Its lack of presence in the UK means there are no real concerns over media plurality should the deal go ahead.
Hanging in the balance is Sky News, which Comcast has described as an “invaluable part of the UK news landscape” and has pledged to “maintain Sky News’ existing brand and culture”.
Fox’s £11.7bn takeover offer for the 61 per cent not already own by Murdoch is still mired in a review by UK watchdog the Competition and Markets Authority.
When Comcast confirmed its “superior cash offer” offer in late April, Sky withdrew its recommendation of Fox’s takeover bid.
On Fox’s bid the CMA has provisionally ruled that it is “not in the public interest” because it would lead to the Murdoch Family Trust, which controls Fox and News Corp (of which Times and Sun publisher News UK is a subsidiary) having “too much control over news providers in the UK…”.
Fox has offered remedies to smooth over the deal, including separating Sky News from the rest of Sky and establish it as a distinct company with guaranteed funding for 15 years.
The Government is expected to make a decision on the Fox bid by 13 June.
It has asked for further representations to be provided by 24 May before making a final decision on whether or not to scrutinise the offer from Comcast, which owns NBC and Universal.
Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire