Published: Wed, April 04, 2018
Markets | By Terence Owen

Disney's Sky News move eliminates obstacle to Murdoch's £11.7bn takeover

Disney's Sky News move eliminates obstacle to Murdoch's £11.7bn takeover

Fox said the proposals would protect Sky News' independence and that Disney has expressed an interest in buying Sky News "whether or not" its own separate proposed acquisition of 21st Century Fox proceeds - Disney is trying to take over many parts of Fox, notably its movie and television studios, which as well as its USA sports network.

Fox had already promised that Sky's 24-hour news service would remain independent under the ultimate control of Murdoch, but critics, including some high-profile politicians, remain adamantly opposed due to Murdoch's record of influence through owning the Sun and the Times newspapers.

The second option would be to transfer Sky News into a legally separate entity which would then be sold to Disney after completion of 21st Century Fox's acquisition of Sky, irrespective of whether Disney's proposed acquisition of 21st Century Fox reaches completion.

Initially, 21st Century Fox was an important opponent for the bid but later Sky News informed that Fox won't be the proper owner of the channel. So far, Fox has simply pledged to guarantee the editorial independence of Sky News, including through the establishment of an independent editorial board.

The company said it thinks the "enhanced firewall remedies we proposed to safeguard the editorial independence of Sky News addressed comprehensively and constructively the CMA's provisional concerns".

21st Century Fox has offered around £11.7bn for the 39% of Sky it does not already own.

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The CMA had also stated in January that its media plurality concerns would fall away on completion of Disney's Fox takeover.

Sky, which has already recommended its shareholders accept the Fox offer, also reacted to the latest remedies offered.

Rupert Murdoch's Fox is bolstering efforts to secure the Sky takeover after Comcast Corp.in February made a surprise competing offer for the pay-TV company.

Fox is continuing to work with United Kingdom regulators on finalizing the deal for Sky while also fending off a rival bid from Comcast.

Sky said, as the regulatory process remains ongoing, shareholders are advised to take no action at this stage. Twenty-First Century offered this even though the record before the CMA shows that, over the course of almost 30 years as Sky's founding shareholder, neither Twenty-First Century, nor the Murdoch Family Trust, have ever sought to influence the editorial direction of Sky News.

The watchdog investigated the proposed deal over media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards following a referral from the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport.

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