Rupert Murdoch offers to sell Sky News to Disney to appease regulator

Murdoch’s ownership of the Sun the Times and the Sunday Times newspapers has led to competition concerns over the Fox takeover of Sky News

Murdoch’s ownership of the Sun the Times and the Sunday Times newspapers has led to competition concerns over the Fox takeover of Sky News

European pay TV giant Sky and its 39 percent owner 21st Century Fox have offered to sell the Sky News channel to Walt Disney if that would help address United Kingdom regulators' concerns about Sky News' independence from Fox.

In a bid to alleviate the CMA's concerns, Fox has recommended either a legal separation and ringfencing of Sky News or selling the news outlet to Disney.

"We offered this even though the record before the CMA shows that, over the course of almost 30 years as Sky's founding shareholder, neither Fox, nor the Murdoch Family Trust, have ever sought to influence the editorial direction of Sky News".

A group of high-profile British lawmakers, including former Labour party leader Ed Miliband, called last month for Murdoch to be blocked from buying Sky, despite the promises Fox had already made to ensure the independence of Sky News.

In a move separate from the Disney offer, Fox also said it would also establish Sky News as a separate company to ease its takeover of Sky.

Fox said it could sell Sky News to Disney, or legally separate Sky News within the wider Sky group, so it would operate independently with guaranteed funding for 15 years.

In December, Disney agreed to buy the bulk of Fox's assets, including its film and television studios, for US$52.4bn.

First, Fox must have received approval from Disney to offer the concession, they said, and second, Sky said its independent directors remained focused on maximising value for shareholders.

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Fox said: 'We are aware that a group of politicians that is opposed to the transaction is seeking to influence the CMA and is making a number of unsupported and fanciful assertions.

"We have worked diligently with the CMA throughout its extensive review".

"These enhanced remedies went above and beyond what Ofcom, the expert, independent regulator on United Kingdom broadcasting, had stated would mitigate concerns around media plurality".

Sky News could end up being sold to Disney before the rest of Sky.

The watchdog investigated the proposed deal over media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards following a referral from the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport.

Disney owns ABC News and therefore could be seen as a good fit for Sky News.

"More importantly, we think the news and today's comments from Sky point to a revised bid from Fox/Disney to trump Comcast's 1250p bid", they said.

Another twist in the tale came when American Comcast, which owns NBC and Universal, unveiled a higher £22.5bn offer for Sky in February, setting up a race between the two media empires as they both sought to get their hands on the company set up in 1989 by Mr Murdoch.

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