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Karen Bradley, the UK Culture Secretary, has expressed concerns about corporate governance at News Corp and breaches of broadcasting standards by 21st Century Fox.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Bradley who had previously said that she was “minded” to refer 21st Century Fox’s proposed takeover of Sky to media regulator Ofcom, saying that she had “concerns that there might be public interest considerations” relating to concentration of ownership and broadcasting standards.“I am concerned about the nature of a number of breaches of broadcasting standards by 21st Century Fox as well as the behaviour and corporate governance failures at News Corporation in the past.”
In addition to phone hacking at the now defunct News of the World – which led to the then News Corp’s 2011 bid for the 61 per cent of Sky it did not own being dropped – Bradley is understood to have reservations about standards at Fox News.
Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corporation, owner of The Times, is co-chairman of 21st Century Fox with his son Lachlan. His other son, James, is chief executive of 21st Century Fox and chairman of Sky.
Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour opposition and Shadow Culture Secretary, Labour called for Ofcom to be given full powers to investigate the proposed takeover, warning that the bid would hand “even greater” media power to the Murdoch family. “Ofcom should look at the whole group of Murdoch-owned and controlled companies in assessing whether the Sky takeover would threaten media plurality,” he told MPs.
“We do need to be satisfied that the merged company would comply with the broadcasting code, just as we need to be confident that it would not be used by Rupert Murdoch or his family to promote their political views and interests. But the most troubling issues raised by the proposed merger are not about the content of James Murdoch’s programming, they are about the content of his character.”
“The Secretary of State has referred to failures of corporate governance during the phone hacking scandal. But it is not clear that these failings fall under the heading of ‘broadcasting standards’, even though they are central to whether this merger should be approved,” he added.