Fox commits to Sky News independence to try to secure Sky deal


LONDON (Reuters) – Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox (FOXA.O) said it would commit to maintain Sky News in Britain for at least five years and would establish an independent board for the channel to try to secure its takeover of pay-TV operator Sky (SKYB.L). Britain’s competition regulator said last month that Fox‘s$15.7 billion deal to buy the 61 percent of Sky it does not already own should be blocked unless a way is found to prevent Murdoch influencing Sky’s news output. Fox disputed the regulator’s assessment, saying it was based on a number of legal and factual errors. Nonetheless it said its proposed remedies, based on putting a “firewall” around the 24-hour news channel, went to the heart of addressing the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) concerns. “The combined effect of the Proposed Firewall Remedies is that there could be no circumstances in which, post-transaction, the MFT (Murdoch family trust) or members of the Murdoch family could influence, whether directly or indirectly, the editorial line or policy of Sky News,” the company said. It also said it agreed with the CMA’s view that the possibility of Disney buying Fox assets, including its stake in Sky, should be taken into consideration. The CMA in January put forward three broad possible solutions to its concerns: insulating Sky News from Fox’s influence, spinning off or divesting Sky News, or blocking the deal outright. Fox’s proposals were released by the CMA on Monday. It is due to present media secretary Matt Hancock with a final report by May 1 and he has said he will rule on the deal by June 14. In its own submission, Sky said it considered the remedies proposed by Fox – a structural separation of Sky News governance and editorial decision-making underpinned by robust behavioral commitments – would be an effective and comprehensive solution to the regulator’s concerns. “The proposed remedies (…) decisively eliminate the source of the CMA’s provisional concerns – potential MFT influence over Sky News’ editorial decision-making,” it said. “They are straightforward to implement and monitor.” Shares in Sky were trading up 0.3 percent at 10.50 pounds at 1216 GMT. Reporting by Paul Sandle; editing by Sarah Young and David EvansOur Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Source: Reuters