Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox has offered to separate Sky News from the rest of Sky and establish it as a distinct company with guaranteed funding for 15 years.
The offer is a revision of “remedies” submitted by Fox in a bid to smooth the completion of its £11.7bn takeover of Sky, which is still under review by the Competition and Markets Authority.
The CMA has said the deal – which will see Murdoch acquire the 61 per cent of Sky he doesn’t already own – is not in the public interest, but has yet to make a final ruling on it.
In a statement today, Fox has also said that Disney had “expressed an interest in acquiring Sky News” with a view to adding it to its existing portfolio of television channels.
This, Fox said, was an offer that stands independent of the $52.4bn (£39bn) deal struck between both companies in December that will see Disney buy up a number of Fox assets. Disney will have full ownership of Sky, including, as it stands, Sky News, if the takeover deal is approved.
Fox said: “We have worked diligently with the CMA throughout its extensive review. In fact, we believe that the enhanced firewall remedies we proposed to safeguard the editorial independence of Sky News addressed comprehensively and constructively the CMA’s provisional concerns.
“These enhanced remedies went above and beyond what Ofcom, the expert, independent regulator on UK broadcasting, had stated would mitigate concerns around media plurality.”
Under the proposed legal separation of Sky News from Sky, the news broadcaster would have its own fully independent board and would be under the management control of the head of Sky News.
Murdoch and his Fox executives have also offered “personal undertakings” not to influence, or attempt to influence, the editorial choices made by the head of Sky News, Fox said.
“We offered this even though the record before the CMA shows that, over the course of nearly 30 years as Sky’s founding shareholder, neither Fox, nor the Murdoch Family Trust, have ever sought to influence the editorial direction of Sky News.”
The latest move from Fox is a response to the CMA’s concern that the takeover deal would result in the 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”.
The company has said its £22bn ($31bn) offer for the 61 per cent of Sky is a “superior cash proposal” to the £12bn bid made by Fox.