Fox said in a statement the decision was made because the channel has very little viewership and is not a money-maker for Sky. There is no doubt that the decision was influenced by the pending U.K. regulatory review of Fox’s $15 billion takeover of Sky. The Fox News feed was dropped earlier on Tuesday.
“21CF has decided to cease providing a feed of Fox News Channel in the U.K.,” Fox said in a statement. Fox News is focused on the U.S. market and designed for a U.S. audience and, accordingly, it averages only a few thousand viewers across the day in the U.K. We have concluded that it is not in our commercial interest to continue providing Fox News in the U.K.”
Fox News has been a source of ammunition for critics of Fox’s takeover of Sky, who point to the channel’s strong conservative opinion programming as evidence of bias. Given the low viewership and the fact that Fox News does not tailor the feed for the U.K. market, it was an easy call to yank the feed from Sky.
21st Century Fox at present is awaiting word on the next phase of the merger review. In June, Culture Minister Karen Bradley said she was inclined to refer the matter on for additional study on whether the Murdoch clan would have too much control of the U.K. media landscape. At the same time, Bradley and regulator Ofcom expressly stated that the businesses controlled by the Murdochs had passed the “fit and proper” test .
Fox critics had pointed to the stream of sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits against Fox News-affiliated personalities as evidence that the Murdochs should not be allowed to expand their ownership of Sky beyond the 39% that 21st Century Fox already owns. Bradley and Ofcom’s decision on the “fit and proper” question was a victory for Fox even as the deal review was extended over media concentration concerns.
Sources said Fox’s decision to pull the Fox News feed was an effort to remove any more qualitative discussions about Fox News’ programming in connection with the U.K. review. Because the channel typically had fewer than 2,000 viewers a day, Sky actually incurred some costs in maintaining the 24/7 feed.