Rupert Murdoch’s Sky takeover approved by European regulator – The Guardian

Rupert Murdoch’s £11.7bn bid to take full control of Sky has been cleared by the European competition regulator.

The European commission, which has been investigating 21st Century Fox’s takeover bid since early March, has given the deal “unconditional approval”.

“Based on the results of its market investigation, the Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns,” it said. “Fox and Sky are mainly active in different markets in Austria, Germany, Ireland, Italy and the UK. They compete with each other only to a limited extent, mainly in the acquisition of TV content and in the wholesale supply of basic pay-TV channels.”

Rivals have lodged submissions with the regulator, raising concerns that the combined broadcasters would dominate bidding for top-flight sport, TV shows and movies.

The ruling – which was expected given the commission also cleared Murdoch’s ill-fated 2010 bid – does not affect the investigation being conducted by Ofcom in the UK.

The UK media regulator is currently assessing whether the takeover will give Murdoch too much control of news media in the UK, and whether he is a “fit and proper” owner of Sky.

The deal would give the Murdoch family control of Sky News through 21st Century Fox (which already owns the Fox News service), and the Sun, Times and Sunday Times newspapers and the TalkSport radio station through News Corporation, a separate company.

Ofcom is due to report back to Karen Bradley, the culture secretary, with the outcome of its investigation by 16 May.

“21st Century Fox welcomes today’s decision by the European commission clearing unconditionally its proposed transaction to acquire the outstanding shares of Sky that it does not already own,” said Fox in a statement. “We now look forward to continuing to work with UK authorities and are confident that the proposed transaction will be approved following a thorough review process.”

During the 2010 takeover bid by News Corp, which was derailed by the phone hacking scandal at the company, Murdoch reached an agreement with the government to spin off Sky News to satisfy media plurality concerns.

This time round, James Murdoch, now the chief executive of Fox and chair of Sky, has said he does not expect to make any “meaningful concessions” to get the deal through.

Critics, such as former Labour leader Ed Miliband, argue that the Murdoch empire has not been reformed since the phone hacking scandal and has a record of “persistent disregard for the law and regulatory control”.

Fox claims that in the years since the abandoned bid, the media landscape has changed beyond recognition. The company said media plurality was flourishing with the rise of digital rivals such as Google and Facebook, and outlets such as Vice, BuzzFeed and Huffington Post, while newspaper sales have declined.

It also argues that splitting the publishing and the TV and film operations into two companies solves corporate governance, competition and plurality issues.

Fox has pledged to keep Fox News at arm’s length and continue to broadcast news under the Sky brand, to avoid what critics say could be a “Foxification” of Sky News, and to “maintain its excellent record of compliance with the Ofcom broadcasting code”.

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