Last month the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) provisionally rejected Rupert Murdoch’s £11.7 billion takeover bid for Sky on the grounds that it would give him too much control over the UK media scene and was not in the public interest. They did not, however, go for an outright rejection and any final decision will be taken by the new Culture Secretary Matt Hancock in May.
What’s more they did not accept concerns expressed that the new Murdoch controlled company would not be committed to broadcasting standards, despite the phone-hacking scandal at the then Murdoch owned News of the World, or those about allegations of sexual harassment at Fox News in the US, controlled by the Murdoch family trust. However they threw him a life-line by offering suggestions as to how Fox (i.e. Murdoch) could address its concerns about media plurality which are now the subject of public consultation.
These are essentially ‘behavioural’ changes aimed at protecting Sky News from the direct influence of the Murdoch family trust, or by selling or spinning off Sky News. The news was music to ears of the shareholders. On the day of the CMA’s announcement shares rose ‘as investors and traders betted that the watchdog’s deal was more likely to go through…’ (Graham Ruddick The Observer – Business – 28 January). He went on to explain that ‘This is because it is easier to allay concerns about media plurality – such as by selling off Sky News – than any concerns about broadcasting standards due to the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World, or sexual harassment allegations at Fox News’.
Along with other campaigners the CPBF welcomed the CMA’s provisional rejection of Murdoch’s bid, but we should never underestimate his ability to turn such a situation to his advantage. Aided by the competition authority’s life-line, his people are working around the clock to convince the CMA to wave through the takeover. We need to continue to mobilise public and political opposition to Murdoch to ensure that the Culture Secretary Matt Hancock blocks the deal.
In December the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom (of which I’m treasurer) launched a £20,000 appeal to stop Murdoch. Subsequent events, including the provisional decision of the CMA makes this appeal even more urgent. Murdoch must not be underestimated and our campaign to stop the deal continues. We are already submitting evidence to the CMA in support of blocking the deal. Will you help us?