UK regulators to examine Murdoch media deal

By Danica Kirka, Associated Press | Posted - Mar. 16, 2017 at 9:10 a.m.



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LONDON (AP) — Britain's government asked two regulators to evaluate Rupert Murdoch's effort to consolidate his media empire on Thursday in a move that will bring fresh attention to the mogul's holdings.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley has asked media regulator Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority to review public interest issues surrounding Twenty-First Century Fox's plan to buy the shares it doesn't already own in Sky Plc.

Bradley says she will decide whether the merger should proceed after receiving the reports, due by May 16.

Twenty-First Century Fox, the U.S. media group controlled by Murdoch, already owns 39 percent of Sky, a broadcasting and broadband company with operations throughout Europe. An earlier attempt to buy the remaining shares was scuttled by the 2011 phone-hacking scandal that rocked Murdoch's British newspapers.

Murdoch shut down the 168-year-old News of the World tabloid at the height of the controversy. The anger over phone hacking since then has abated.

But comments following Bradley's remarks to the House of Commons made clear that some lawmakers have long memories. Former Labour leader Ed Miliband warned against bolstering the media empire's reach.

"Many of us believe that if you look at the conduct of the Murdochs and the untrammeled power they already have, it is not in the public interest for them to take over Sky and have full control," he said.

The drawn out process of the scandal may continue to shadow the deal, particularly since interest groups and some members of Parliament remain firmly opposed.

"I think the real sort of pimple, or boil, is the phone hacking business," said independent analyst Alice Enders. "James Murdoch has apologized for his conduct, but that's not going to settle everyone's opinion."

Thursday's move was not unexpected. Fox expressed its willingness to cooperate and confidence that it would be approved.

The takeover values Sky, which broadcasts Premier League soccer and top film and television offerings, at 18.5 billion pounds ($22.7 billion).

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Danica Kirka

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