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11 October 2017
| Natalie Bannerman
Sharon White, Ofcom chief executive, has defended the decision made by the regulator over 21st Century Fox’s proposed takeover of Sky.
The decision to not recommend the
media corporation to referral to the competition watchdog has
come under scrutiny. In response White said that while the
regulator has from some "extremely disturbing" behaviour at Fox
News, for which 21st Century Fox is the parent company, it did
not believe that Sky was deserving of losing its broadcasting
licence following the proposed takeover.
Fox owns 39.1% of Sky is trying to purchase the entire
company in a deal worth $18.5 billion.
Earlier this year, the deal was referred by Karen
Bradley, the Secretary of State for culture, media and sport,
to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on the grounds
of concerns about media plurality and broadcasting
Ofcom, who carried out the preliminary investigation into
the deal referred the deal to the CMA over media plurality but
not on broadcasting standards.
When asked by the culture, media and sport select committee
about how the decision was reached White said that a thorough
review had been carried out adding "We did not find a
particular concern that would have caused us to believe that
Sky News in particular and Sky as a broadcaster,
post-transaction, would not be a fit and proper broadcaster,"
adding that Sky "currently has a very strong record of
compliance on broadcasting".
Labour MP Paul Farrelly further questioned White on the
reports of sexual harassment at Fox News to which she replied:
"In the round, we looked at all the corporate governance
issues, particularly for Fox News, we found some extremely
disturbing and serious behaviour but the consideration for us
as a regulator, with the fitness and propriety of a company to
hold a broadcast licence, we would need to demonstrate,
particularly taking into account issues surrounding freedom of
expression and choice for audiences, whether those corporate
governance issues…whether those were sufficiently
deleterious that, when you weave them into a broadcasting
arena, that that would justify the withdrawing of the
"And our judgement was that the behaviour, particularly at
Fox News, was extremely serious and disturbing. We found
significant corporate governance failures. But it was also our
judgement that you could not, within a broadcasting arena, on a
reasonable basis, take the view that Sky would not continue to
be a fit and proper broadcaster, "continued White.
Additionally Conservative MP Rebecca Pow asked whether the
regulator had sufficiently scrutinised the deal. White said: "I
am absolutely confident we did a professional, independent,
Unsurprising the subject of BT and its negotiations with Ofcom, with the purpose
of boosting investment in the country’s high-speed
Commenting on the high discussions, White Ofcom was "very
much holding Openreach to the fire" and said early signs of an
improvement in service were "reasonably positive".