Regulator stymies Murdoch bid for Sky but Disney may ride to the rescue

What has Rupert Murdoch done to upset the British establishment?

After decades of getting his own way over just about everything – even surviving the phone hacking scandal at the now defunct News of the World – the US-based tycoon (below) has seen his second bid to acquire the 61 per cent of broadcaster Sky he doesn’t already own stymied by the Competition and Markets Authority.

It says such a deal would give the Murdoch family “too much control over news providers across all media platforms, and therefore too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda.”

Which has always been the point for Murdoch although not necessarily sons James and Lachlan.

However some deal may go through as Disney is currently negotiating with Murdoch’s Fox to buy its film studios plus other assets, including its stake in Sky. The CMA says Disney’s takeover of Fox would “significantly weaken” the link between the Murdochs and Sky “which is at the root of our provisional concerns about media plurality…on the face of it, these concerns would fall away.”

However it adds that Disney’s acquisition of Fox is likely to be subject to regulatory scrutiny in the US and is unlikely to close until well after the review of Fox’s takeover of Sky is complete. Which, presumably, it now is unless the Government intervenes.

So that’s all clear as mud then.

It will be interesting to see how Sky itself responds. The Sky board has welcomed Murdoch’s £11.7bn bid and threatened to close or sell Sky News, its loss-making but influential news operation and the source of the CMA’s anxieties, if the Fox deal wasn’t nodded through. Sky is under pressure from new players like Amazon and Neflix and it’s also faced with shelling out even more billions when the next auction for Premier League football rights closes in a few months.

Some shareholders might be fearful of Sky overbidding against the newbies and BT (itself hardly awash with cash).

This shows all the signs of becoming another right old media mess unless Disney can ride to the rescue, like Prince Charming in one of its films. But the Trump administration in the US has shown itself hostile to mega-media mergers so Sky is left in limbo.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

One comment

  1. The Wizened of Oz will be at that big media conglomerate in the sky before any of this happens. Although, it is rumored that like me, he has a gnarly picture in the attic. Unless James and Lachlan have burnt it!
    Cheers/George

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