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UK Culture Secretary Karen Bradley will on Thursday tell parliament her view on the plan by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox $14.8 billion bid to acquire Britain’s Sky pay-TV business and its European subsidiaries. Bradley received regulator Ofcom’s views on the deal last week and will report to parliament on June 29. She will say whether she is “minded” to approve – or deny – the deal.
The market is uncertain as to which way the decision will go. While the European Commission’s regulators have already approved the take-over, the fact is that Bradley might decide to submit the whole process to a more detailed examination by the Competition and Markets Authority, which will take more time.
Not helping matters are the problems at Fox News in the USA, where several women have alleged sexual or racial harassment. One of the women directly involved has spoken to Ofcom, for example. This places Rupert Murdoch and his sons in the firing line as to whether they are “fit and proper” to run a UK broadcaster.
Bradley’s decision will be made at the same time as Ofcom’s report is published. She is not obliged, one way or another, to follow the Ofcom recommendations, whatever they are.
Also not helping is the precarious position of the UK’s Conservative-led government. A large majority at the recent General Election might have made it easier for the government to nod the scheme through. Prime Minister Theresa May’s precarious position – and the strong opposition from the Labour and Lib-Dem parties to the deal might make an approval a challenge.
One view, shared by some other observers, is that a formula will be reached where Sky News is guaranteed independence and thus ensure it stays impartial and reliable and does not follow the – highly lucrative although allegedly biased – road taken by Fox News in the USA.