Rupert Murdoch’s £11.7 billion bid to take full control of Sky through 21st Century Fox will be referred to the competition watchdog for an in-depth probe, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley has confirmed.
Earlier this week, Ms Bradley told MPs she was likely to refer the deal to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for a full blown investigation centred on broadcasting standards and media plurality grounds.
On Thursday, she said that after receiving letters from both Fox and Sky voicing their disagreement with the decision, they would not be making substantive representations in relation to it.
Ms Bradley said: “As a result, I can confirm my final decision is to refer the merger to the CMA for a Phase 2 investigation on media plurality and genuine commitment to broadcasting standards grounds.
“I will issue and publish my formal referral decision in the coming days. I will also publish the substantive representations I have received during this process shortly.”
Culture Secretary Karen Bradley (David Mirzoeff/PA)
The CMA has around six months to investigate the merger and provide Ms Bradley with advice, after which she must then come to a final decision on whether or not the merger can proceed, including any conditions that will apply in order to do so.
Mr Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox is attempting to acquire the 61% of Sky it does not already own.
The CMA faces the task of delving into claims of misconduct at Fox, which have ranged from alleged racial and sexual harassment to making up quotes.
Mr Murdoch’s latest approach comes after his last attempt at taking over the business through News Corporation in 2011.
The tilt faced opposition from media industry rivals and politicians before it was scuppered by acute pressure on the company, brought about by phone-hacking claims involving News International.
For its part, Sky said that it notes the swift decision to now refer this to the CMA and will “continue to engage constructively in this process”.