Ofcom chief executive Sharon White has said she is “absolutely confident” that the broadcasting regulator was right in ruling that the planned purchase of Sky by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox would not undermine its broadcasting standards.
Culture Secretary Karen Bradley chose to disregard Ofcom’s judgement that the deal should only be referred to the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) over concerns about its impact on media plurality, additionally opting to refer the bid on the grounds of commitment to broadcasting standards.
Appearing at a hearing of the UK parliament’s House of Commons Digital, Culture Media and Sport Committee White was asked if Ofcom had taken its report on the merger “seriously enough”.
“We did a very careful, detailed, consideration of the 51,000 pieces of evidence on the public interest test. We had another 50,000-and-something pieces of evidence on the fitness and propriety and I’m absolutely confident that we did a professional, independent, expert job,” she asserted.
“At the same time, where were pieces of evidence, particularly from the corporate governance issues in Fox News, that were extremely disturbing and extremely serious and we certainly found issues of corporate governance failings,” she revealed.
“As the regulator, our job is to assess whether Sky, who currently has a very strong record of compliance on broadcasting, whether those issues would cause us to believe that Sky would not continue to have a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards or indeed continue to be fit and proper to hold a licence. On these two judgements, our view was we thought that Sky would continue genuinely to have a commitment to broadcasting standards. The Secretary of State has the discretion and she has taken a different view, but the piece of work we did I’m absolutely confident was independent and properly executed,” she concluded.