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Fox: “Government media plurality report flawed”

March 9, 2017

By Colin Mann

21st Century Fox has described officials at the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as being “simplistic” in their analysis of the potential impact of Fox’s bid to take over the 61 per cent of Sky that it does not already own, suggesting the basis for some of their initial findings was “seriously flawed”.

The assertions, reported by the Financial Times, were contained in a letter published Wednesday March 8th as 21st Century Fox made its initial representations following Culture Secretary Karen Bradley’s announcement that she was “minded to intervene” in the group’s takeover bid for Sky and considering whether to refer its offer to the UK’s media watchdog Ofcom.

Bradley said she was minded to ask the regulator to carry out a “thorough review” on the grounds of media plurality and broadcasting standards.

In its four-page letter, signed by Fox executive vice-president and deputy general counsel Jeffrey Palker, the company said a report on media plurality prepared by the campaign group Avaaz and the Media Reform Coalition, on which officials based the culture secretary’s “provisional view”, was flawed.

According to Palker, flaws include the misattribution of consumption of news on commercial radio to Sky, as well as the “erroneous characterisation of News Corp as the ‘largest newspaper provider’ and inaccurate claims that rising online readership has ‘eclipsed’ the dramatic decline in circulation of News Corp titles”.

The letter also says it a “clear error” to ignore the implications of the split between Rupert Murdoch’s entertainment and newspaper operations into separate companies in 2013.

As regards broadcasting standards, Palker contends that the DCMS has been “simplistic” by referring to the number of previous UK broadcasting code infringements committed by Sky and Fox, calling these “at best irrelevant and uninformative”.

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