You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sky-Fox Deal: U.K. Media Minister Quizzed in Parliament

UPDATED: British lawmakers held an urgent discussion in Parliament on Monday afternoon over 21st Century Fox’s proposed takeover of Europe’s biggest pay-TV operator Sky.

The opposition Labor Party filed an emergency request to quiz the government minister in charge of media policy amid mounting opposition to the $23.2-billion deal, which was announced last Friday. Kevin Brennan, Labor’s spokesman for arts and heritage, and other lawmakers questioned Matt Hancock, the digital and culture minister, who was standing in for Karen Bradley, Prime Minister Theresa May’s minister for media.

Asked whether Bradley would refer the matter to British media regulator Ofcom so that it could rule on whether media plurality would be adversely affected by the deal, Hancock said that as the Fox offer had not been finalized it was too early to comment on this. He added that once Bradley received formal notification of a deal she would have 10 days to respond.

The Conservative Party’s John Whittingdale, a former culture secretary, observed that competition in the U.K. pay-TV market had increased significantly since Rupert Mudoch’s previous attempt to take over Sky in 2010, when Ofcom had approved the takeover, “subject to certain remedies.”

Ed Miliband, who was leader of the Labor Party at the time of the previous takeover bid, reminded the House of Commons that at that time they had passed a motion calling for the government to block the takeover as a response to the phone-hacking scandal involving some of Murdoch’s British tabloids, and in his view “very little” had changed since then in terms of press regulation, so the deal should be rejected again now.

The discussion came as opposition to the proposed deal grew. Michael Lyons, a former chairman of the BBC, said that May ought to refer the matter to Ofcom.

“Is she really interested in a different type of future for this country? If so, she should do anything in her power to resist the further growth in the Murdochs’ grip on news and media,” he told the Observer newspaper.

The Liberal Democrat Party politician Vince Cable, who handled Mudoch’s previous attempt to take over Sky when Cable was the government’s business secretary, said the deal would not be in the public interest.

“This is yet again a threat to media plurality, choice, just as it was six years ago when I referred this to the competition authorities and it should be investigated,” he said. “The ownership of the media, whether you’re looking at press, radio, television, is very highly concentrated, and this makes it even more concentrated.”

Although Murdoch abandoned his bid to take over Sky, or BSkyB, as it was known then, in 2011, the media magnate and his son James, who is Sky’s chairman, have never given up on the idea.

Despite renewed expressions of concern, it is unlikely the deal would be stopped, media analysts say. Following the phone-hacking scandal, Murdoch placed his TV and print assets in separate companies, Fox and News Corp., respectively. This is likely to dispel any unease about a concentration of media power.

“It’s very likely that even if there is a plurality investigation that this will go through,” Claire Enders of Enders Analysis told the BBC. “It is a different situation and the entities have been structured differently.”

Nonetheless, Chris Bryant, a Labor Party lawmaker and its former media spokesman, criticized the deal. “Have we in Britain learned nothing about handing over the largest broadcaster by value and the largest share of newspapers to a single individual? The damage that does in the end to our political system is immense.

“It’s a phenomenal concentration of social and political power and if we let it go through without so much of a by-your-leave, we will rue the day. Again.”

More TV

  • Federation Entertainment Acquires Israeli Series 'In

    Federation Entertainment Acquires Popular Israeli Series 'In The Spectrum' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Federation Entertainment has acquired distribution rights to Dana Idisis and Yuval Shafferman’s critically acclaimed original Israeli series “On The Spectrum” which took home the top Grand Jury Prize at Series Mania last year after premiering at Tribeca. Produced by Sumayoko Productions and YesStudios, “On The Spectrum” was commissioned and broadcast on Israel’s premium platform YesTV [...]

  • European Union Placeholder

    European Parliament Gives Final Approval to Controversial Article 13 Copyright Directive

    The European Parliament on Tuesday gave final approval of Article 13, a controversial directive that shakes up the rules around copyright in the continent with ramifications for online platforms, content owners and creators, and the general public. The proposed new framework, now approved, has sparked widespread debate among the platforms, public, and content firms. The platforms, [...]

  • Fox Disney Layoffs

    Fox Studio Quickly Fades Away as Disney Starts Work on Integration

    In the waning days of 21st Century Fox, there was a run on the searchlight. As Disney neared the completion of its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox, employees on the Fox lot rushed into the studio’s gift shop to pick up mugs, shot glasses, sweatshirts, hats and T-shirts emblazoned with 20th Century Fox’s [...]

  • Purple

    French Women’s Drama ‘Purple’ Wins Series Mania Co-Pro Pitching Sessions

    LILLE, France — At an awards ceremony on Monday night, French drama series “Purple” was announced as the winner of the Series Mania Co-Pro Pitching Sessions, scoring a cash prize of €50,000 ($56,500), the TV festival’s main industry award. The ceremony was hosted by Series Mania founder and general director Laurence Herszberg and jury president [...]

  • Osmosis

    Netflix Unveils Four More French Originals, 'Gims,' 'Anelka,' 'Move,' 'Of Earth And Blood'

    As it prepares to open a fully-staffed office in France and ramp up its investment in local originals, Netflix has unveiled three new documentaries, “Move” (working title), “Gims” (working title), and “Anelka” (working title), and the feature film “Of Earth And Blood” while at Series Mania in Lille. Announced during a panel with Netflix’s commissioning [...]

  • Charmed -- "Let This Mother Out"

    'Charmed' Showrunner Exits, Craig Shapiro & Elizabeth Kruger Board Series

    The CW’s reboot of “Charmed” is changing showrunners. Variety has learned that Carter Covington has stepped down as showrunner on the series, which has already been renewed for a second season. Husband and wife team Craig Shapiro and Elizabeth Kruger have been brought on to helm the series going forward. Shapiro and Kruger are currently [...]

  • Apple TV Plus Reese Witherspoon Jennifer

    What We Know About 'Amazing Stories' And Other Shows Coming to Apple TV+

    Viewers got a sneak peek of upcoming shows coming to Apple TV+, Apple’s newly unveiled streaming service, during the company’s live-streamed event in Cupertino, Calif., on Monday. The stars and creators of the most highly anticipated projects like Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories” and “The Morning Show” from Reese Witherspoon appeared on stage to reveal more [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content