Britain eyes wider probe on Sky takeover

21st Century Fox takeover of Sky referred to competition watchdog

In an address to Parliament, the minister, Karen Bradley, said she was "minded" to refer the $15 billion deal to the Competition and Markets Authority for a more intensive inquiry over concerns about whether Fox would uphold broadcast standards in Britain and whether it would control too much of the British media.

She made the decision, after months of deliberation, because of media plurality and whether there is a commitment to broadcasting standards.

Currently, his 21st Century Fox owns 39 percent of the company - but it wants way more.

While the blockbuster deal has already raised concerns about the influence of the Australian-born USA tycoon over Britain's media landscape, industry observers are also anxious that the controversial reporting style of Murdoch's Fox News channel could be adopted by Britain's Sky News.

"I have the power to make a reference if I believe there is a risk - which is not purely fanciful - that the merger might operate against the specified public interests", she said. "Ofcom has now confirmed it considers this to raise non-fanciful concerns but which are not sufficiently serious to warrant referral. These are matters the CMA may wish to consider".

She will make the final decision on whether to clear the merger after considering the CMA's feedback, which could come as late as March 2018.

The media regulator gave Bradley the window she was looking for, saying that it "recognises that the legal threshold for referral is low [and] you may refer as secretary of state if there are any non-fanciful concerns".

21st Century Fox is one of the world's largest entertainment companies with a vast portfolio of cable, broadcast, film, pay-TV and satellite assets across six continents.

Teva's stock rockets to biggest gain since 1984
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She also raised concerns about "corporate governance issues".

"My proper concern is whether Fox will have a genuine commitment to attaining broadcasting standards objectives".

Wrongdoing at News Corp's United Kingdom newspapers scuppered a 2010 attempt to buy the rest of Sky, while this time, sexual- and racial-harassment allegations at Fox News have given opponents ammunition to slow a deal that initially appeared on track to sail through.

Murdoch's media group is trying to buy the 61 percent of Sky it doesn't already own. However, I am not confident that weaknesses in Fox's corporate governance arrangements are incapable of affecting compliance in the broadcasting standards context.

Sky shares dropped by roughly 2% in London.

The past few months have also seen pressure for a referral on the broadcasting standards issue, partly from campaign group Avaaz and also a group of high-profile MPs.

Wigdor, which is pursuing several cases against Fox News, said: "We are pleased that after our submissions Secretary Bradley has concluded that a further investigation is necessary in order to determine whether Fox has met broadcasting standards and are hopeful that Fox will now waive any gag orders so that other individuals can provide relevant information without fear of reprisal".

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