21st Century Fox’s bid to take control of the 61% stake it does not already hold in Sky has been provisionally blocked by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The competition watchdog has been investigating the deal on two grounds – media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards – following its referral from the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in September 2017. In announcing the development, the CMA said it had provisionally found that Fox taking full control of Sky was ‘not in the public interest due to media plurality concerns, but not because of a lack of a genuine commitment to meeting broadcasting standards in the UK.’
The CMA has now set out a series of potential options for addressing the problems identified in its public remedies notice, while it has invited responses from interested parties regarding its provisional decision and proposed remedies, especially in view of the announcement by Fox last December that it had agreed the sale of certain assets, including its interests in Sky, to The Walt Disney Company. Such factors, the watchdog said, will be ‘carefully considered’ before it finalises its report on the matter and sends it to Matt Hancock, the new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media. With this report due to be sent by 1 May 2018, a final decision regarding the proposed deal will then be made by Mr Hancock.