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British Regulator Report on Fox-Sky Takeover Postponed

The eagerly awaited reports from Britain’s media regulator and anti-trust authorities into 21st Century Fox’s proposed £11.7-billion ($15 billion) takeover of pay-TV broadcaster Sky will be postponed until after the upcoming U.K. general election in June.

Karen Bradley, the British secretary of state for culture, media and sport, announced Friday that she had officially written to media regulator Ofcom and the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) extending the deadline by which they must report back to her on the proposed merger, from May 16 to June 20. The decision follows the House of Commons’ vote on Wednesday approving Prime Minister Theresa May’s request for a snap general election for June 8.

“Given the proximity of this decision to the forthcoming general election and following discussions with the parties, Ofcom, the CMA and the Cabinet Office Propriety and Ethics team I wrote to Ofcom and the CMA on Friday, April 21, to extend the period by which these reports should be submitted to Tuesday, June 20,” said Bradley.

Following approval of the snap election, Britain has now entered an interim period during which government officials are prohibited from making any announcement of new or controversial initiatives that could be seen to be advantageous to any candidates or parties.

Bradley intervened in 21st Century Fox’s proposed acquisition of Sky on March 16 when she issued a European Intervention Notice on public-interest grounds of media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards. This required Ofcom and the CMA to assess those concerns and report back to Bradley by May 16, at which point she would continue to consider her decision on the acquisition. The new deadline falls 12 days after the snap election.

A spokesperson for Ofcom said: “The issues we are required to consider in the public-interest assessment may overlap with our own consideration of Sky’s fitness to hold broadcasting licences. Given this overlap, we are extending the consideration of our fit and proper assessment, and expect to reach conclusions on June 20.”

The proposed takeover was originally announced last December and would see Fox acquire the remaining 61% of Sky that it does not already own. The European Commission cleared the takeover on April 7, saying that it raised no anti-trust concerns in the five European Union countries where Sky broadcasts: the U.K., Ireland, Italy, Germany and Austria. 

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