21st Century Fox’s bid for Sky faces a new obstacle after U.K. authorities said fresh evidence had emerged in its scrutiny of the takeover.
U.K. culture minister Karen Bradley said in late July she needed to more time to make a final decision on Fox’s mooted £11.7 billion ($15.2 billion) takeover of Europe’s largest pay TV operator, and her Department for Culture, Media and Sport said today, Tuesday, that it has asked communications regulator Ofcom to look at the bid again.
Opponents of the deal, led by former Labour Party leader Ed Milliband in the U.K., have asked the authorities to take a lawsuit into account that alleges Fox News fabricated quotes in a story about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich. The case could raise new questions about whether the Murdoch family should be allowed to control a combined Fox-Sky, an entity that would include Fox News and Sky News, they said.
In her last public statement Bradley said she was minded to refer the elements of the deal concerning media plurality to British competition authorities, but not further scrutinize whether the Murdoch family are ‘fit and proper’ owners of the proposed combined Fox and Sky business.
“After assessing the large number of representations made in relation to the Secretary of State’s referral decision, a number of these raise new evidence and/or comment on the Ofcom assessment,” the DCMS said in a statement. The government department said it is now seeking “further clarification” from Ofcom, and has set a deadline of August 25 to receive that.
Specifically it said it wanted the regulator’s advice on points arising from submissions made to Bradley during the consultation period. It gave no further detail.
The news will be a blow to Fox, which was hoping the matter would move ahead without new obstacles being put in its way. It has previously said the case is being watched by European businesses who want to see whether the British government is “creating a climate conducive to investment,” in the wake of the Brexit vote.