CMA publishes latest Fox remedies for Sky bid

Murdoch’s ownership of the Sun the Times and the Sunday Times newspapers has led to competition concerns over the Fox takeover of Sky News

Sky News could be sold to Walt Disney or completely ring-fenced in concessions put forward Tuesday by Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox as it seeks to bolster its chances of taking full control of the United Kingdom satellite broadcaster Sky.

Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox has come up with two proposals it thinks will alleviate a United Kingdom regulator's concern about the company's bid to purchase European broadcaster Sky.

US cable giant Comcast Corp gate crashed the deal in February when it said it would offer 12.50 pounds a share to buy Sky, compared to Fox's 10.75 pounds, although it has not yet made a formal bid. Britain's antitrust regulator said in January the deal could give Murdoch undue influence given his existing interests in the Sun and Times newspapers. Fox had previously proposed giving Sky News its own editorial board and a 10-year funding guarantee. A surprise offer for Sky from Comcast, the United States cable group, at a premium to the Fox offer has further complicated the picture.

Money-losing Sky News is the last regulatory hurdle in 87-year-old Murdoch's long campaign to buy Sky, which has grown from its United Kingdom beginnings to become Europe's biggest pay-TV group.

Britain's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) regulator provisionally ruled earlier this year that Murdoch's planned takeover was not in the public interest and that a deal would hand him too much power in swaying public opinion. "A further announcement will be made as and when appropriate", it added.

Their view appeared vindicated when Comcast said it would pay 12.50 pounds a share to buy Sky, although it has not yet made a formal bid. That's a slightly stronger version of an idea which media watchdog Ofcom, the first regulator to review the deal, said would "mitigate" concerns.

"The fact that Disney has agreed to this today suggests that the next thing to expect is a revised bid from Fox/Disney for Sky, to match or beat Comcast's offer". "We offered this even though the record before the CMA shows that, over the course of almost 30 years as Sky's founding shareholder, neither 21st Century Fox, nor the Murdoch Family Trust, have ever sought to influence the editorial direction of Sky News".

"In the wider picture, Disney are more focused on the entertainment side of the business whereas Fox are more news focused", he told City A.M.

As an alternative to the Disney sale, Fox proposed additional measures to preserve the news channel's independence.

Twenty-First Century stated that it remain committed to working with the CMA to find remedies that will ensure the continued editorial independence of Sky News.

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