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Disney commits to Sky News funding

June 20, 2018

By Colin Mann

Disney has committed itself to a series of undertakings in respect of Sky News as part of the proposed merger between 21st Century Fox and Sky.

In a Statement in the UK’s House of Commons, Matt Hancock, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, noted that having considered a report from the Competition and Markets Authority, he agreed with its findings on the public interest grounds and the finding that undertakings to divest Sky News to Disney or to an alternative suitable buyer could potentially remedy the adverse plurality public interest concerns identified.

He also noted that there remained a number of issues with the undertakings that had been offered and that these would require discussions between my officials and the parties in order to reach agreement on an acceptable form of the remedy.

Following the successful conclusion of these discussions and the resolution of these issues, he published updated undertakings offered by 21CF along with new undertakings offered by Disney for the divestment of Sky News to Disney.

These undertakings are offered on improved terms and will include:

  • a commitment from Disney to operate and maintain a Sky News branded news service for 15 years rather than 10 years
  • a restriction on Disney from selling Sky News for 15 years without the consent of the Secretary of State
  • an extension of the funding commitment from 21st Century Fox from 10 years to 15 years
  • an increase in the total funds available to Sky News, to at least £100 million per year, with operating costs protected in real terms
  • a formal commitment from Disney to preserve the editorial independence of Sky News

“In my view, these revised undertakings meet the criteria that I set out to the House on 5 June and will help to ensure that Sky News remains financially viable over the long term; is able to operate as a major UK-based news provider; and is able to take its editorial decisions independently, free from any potential outside influence,” he told parliament.

Under the legislation, Hancock is required to consult formally for 15 days on the undertakings, which he proposes to accept. Views as to whether these proposals are sufficient to remedy the adverse plurality public interest concerns raised by this merger are sought by 5pm on Wednesday July 4th 2018.

Sky said it welcomed the statement and that the Secretary of State has said that the revised undertakings offered by 21CF and Disney successfully meet the criteria he set out to Parliament to address the concerns raised by the Competition and Markets Authority in respect of media plurality.

“As 21CF has received all other competition and regulatory approvals in relation to its offer for Sky, the UK approval process remains the only outstanding pre-condition prior to 21CF’s offer being put to Sky shareholders. A further announcement will be made as and when appropriate,” said Sky.

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