UK

Vince Cable Says Rupert Murdoch's Sky Bid Should Be Investigated By Ofcom

Cable 'declared war' on Murdoch by opposing his last takeover attempt.

10/12/2016 15:28 GMT

Rupert Murdoch’s latest takeover bid for broadcaster Sky should be investigated, former deputy Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has said.

Although experts have suggested that a deal might more easily be reached between 21st Century Fox and Sky than it was in 2010, British politicians have called for an investigation into the offer.

Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment
Sir Vince Cable (pictured) said Rupert Murdoch’s latest takeover bid for broadcaster Sky should be investigated.

Cable, who was the Business Secretary in the coalition government at the time of Murdoch’s first bid in 2010-2011, said the media tycoon’s new takeover attempt would not be in the public interest.

Murdoch’s last bid was abandoned following the fallout of the phone hacking scandal.

At the time Cable said he had “declared war” on Murdoch as part of his opposition to the take over.

The former Liberal Democrat MP referred the billionaire businessman’s original bid to regulator Ofcom and said this latest offer should face the same scrutiny.

Cable has been one of the most vocal critics of Murdoch’s latests takeover attempt.

“This is yet again a threat to media plurality, choice, just as it was six years ago when I referred this to the competition authorities and it should be investigated,” Cable told the BBC, Reuters reports.

“The ownership of the media, whether you’re looking at press, radio, television is very highly concentrated and this makes it even more concentrated.”

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband also urged that the Sky bid be referred to Ofcom.

Cable also told BBC Newsnight on Friday that the oversight of Britain’s media is as bad as it was six years ago.

Tom Watson, deputy Labour leader called on regulators to be ready to properly vet the deal - but did not oppose it outright.

On Friday, Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox said it had struck a preliminary deal to buy the 61% of Sky it does not own for around $14 billion. It came five years after a political scandal wrecked his previous bid.

That attempt to buy Sky through his News Corp business provoked uproar among some UK politicians, who said it would give the billionaire owner of The Sun and The Times newspapers too much control over Britain’s media.

It collapsed in 2011 when Murdoch’s UK newspaper business was engulfed in a phone-hacking scandal. It intensified political opposition, resulted in a criminal trial and led to the closure of his News of the World tabloid newspaper.

However, analysts and Murdoch allies said Friday’s proposal was likely to have an easier ride, partly because News Corp has now separated from Fox, which means the bidding firm no longer owns UK newspapers, and because there are little or no competition issues, with very significant changes in the market for news in the UK since 2010.

Yet the fact that News Corp had separated from Fox has been deemed irrelevant by critics of the deal as there will still be a controlling influence.

Others believe the Brexit vote will make Theresa May’s government more determined to promote investment to signify a show of confidence in the British economy.

“It’s very likely that even if there is a plurality investigation that this will go through,” Claire Enders of Enders Analysis told BBC radio.

“It is a different situation and the entities have been structured differently.”

Similarly Wilton Fry, analyst at stockbroker RBC Capital, saw “a high likelihood” of a deal being approved.

It will be up to Karen Bradley, the Conservative government’s culture, media and sport minister to decide whether the plurality situation has materially changed since 2010.

“Will the government really say he can’t own more than 39% of it? I don’t think so,” David Yelland, a former editor of Murdoch’s Sun newspaper, told Reuters.

“It takes a lot of negative energy to block a deal like this and I just don’t see it happening this time around.”