On 15th December 2016 Sky announced that the "21st Century Fox Board and the Independent Committee of Sky are pleased to announce that they have reached agreement on the terms of a recommended pre-conditional cash offer by 21st Century Fox for the fully diluted share capital of Sky which 21st Century Fox and its Affiliates do not already own." And that 21st Century Fox currently anticipates that the Acquisition will complete before the end of 2017.
I share the concerns about the proposed takeover and I know from the large number of emails I have received on this issue that many people feel strongly about it. Indeed, over 100,000 people have already signed the online petition.
On 16 March, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport issued a European Intervention Notice, which asked Ofcom to consider whether there would be sufficient plurality if the takeover of Sky went ahead.
In its report, Ofcom warned that the proposed transaction would “give the Murdoch Family Trust material influence over news providers with a significant presence on television, radio, printed newspapers and online” and recommended the bid be referred to a phase 2 investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Ofcom did, however, conclude that, despite the phone-hacking scandal and serious problems at Fox News in America, the Murdoch family remain fit and proper to hold a broadcasting licence.
This finding is disappointing and I agree that in order to ensure all the facts about corporate governance failure and criminality at News International come to light, to enable a full assessment of whether James and Rupert Murdoch should be allowed to obtain 100% control of Sky, Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry must go ahead. This is vital to investigate the corporate governance failures that allowed the phone hacking scandal to take place, and I will continue to press for Leveson to be implemented in full.
In June, the Secretary of State announced that she was minded to refer the proposed Fox-Sky Merger to the CMA to conduct a further examination of the deal on the grounds of media plurality. A final decision on this is expected shortly. I believe it is vital that the bid be referred to a phase two investigation on grounds of media plurality, and that Parliament be given the opportunity to scrutinise any decision that is made. However, I also believe there must be an investigation on broadcasting standards grounds.
It is clear that the Government should look again at the laws governing media ownership and I will continue to press for the rules to be reviewed.