Newly-appointed Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright has given his Department’s clearance for 21st Century Fox’s bid for the 61 per cent of Sky it does not already own.
In a Statement to Parliament, he said that having taken over as the Secretary of State with responsibility for media public interest cases, he had reviewed the process regarding the proposed merger. “I am content that DCMS and the relevant parties have ensured a scrupulously clear, fair and transparent process and I can now therefore inform the House of the final decisions made by my predecessor as Secretary of State. These decisions were made in a quasi-judicial capacity,” he said.
“On 5 June the previous Secretary of State made a statement to the House in which he set out his decision in relation to the proposed merger. He announced that having considered the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) report, he agreed with their findings on the public interest grounds and their finding that undertakings to divest Sky News to The Walt Disney Company (Disney) or to an alternative suitable buyer could potentially remedy the public interest concerns identified.”
“Following the completion of discussions with the parties, on 19 June he published a consultation on the undertakings offered by 21CF along with new undertakings offered by Disney for the divestment of Sky News to Disney and several associated documents. We received five responses to the consultation, which closed on 4 July. These responses will be published today on the DCMS website, along with the government’s response to the consultation,” he advised.
“Having considered the responses to the consultation, the previous Secretary of State agreed with the parties a clarificatory change to Disney’s undertakings and changes to the associated brand licensing agreement. In response to specific concerns raised by respondents, he also agreed that where appropriate the Secretary of State will consult with the CMA in relation to these undertakings and will publish the formal written advice given by the CMA. I am content to confirm this position,” he stated.
“The publication of the undertakings marks the final stage of the public interest consideration of this case. It is right that Ofcom, the CMA and my Department have taken such care in ensuring the bid is properly and effectively scrutinised. It is now a matter for the Sky shareholders to decide whether to accept 21CF’s bid,” he concluded.
Sky said it welcomed the Statement by the Secretary of State and noted the publication of the final version of the undertakings offered by 21CF and The Walt Disney Company, which have been accepted as addressing the concerns raised by the Competition and Markets Authority in respect of media plurality.
“Sky welcomes the Secretary of State’s comments that this now marks the final stage of the public interest consideration of this case. 21CF’s offer for Sky has now cleared its outstanding regulatory pre-conditions. This follows the satisfaction by Comcast on 15 June 2018 of its outstanding regulatory pre-conditions, meaning both offers for Sky are now capable of being put formally to Sky Shareholders,” it advised.