Fox pledges Sky News independence, as takeover hangs in the balance


The family of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has promised not to interfere with Sky News if regulators approve a $16 billion takeover of pay TV provider Sky.

Just days after a United Kingdom regulator put a provisional block on the £11.7bn Fox-Sky deal saying it would concentrate too much power in Rupert Murdoch's hands, the US-based media group has now pledged to guarantee the independence of Sky News.

Nonetheless it said its proposed remedies, based on putting a "firewall" around the 24-hour news channel, went to the heart of addressing the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) concerns.

The "firewall remedies" were revealed in documents published by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Broadcaster 21st Century Fox has offered to bolster editorial independence at Sky News as it tries to win regulatory backing for its bid to take control of the United Kingdom broadcaster.

The CMA suggested ways it felt Fox could address its concerns, including spinning off Sky News, or "behavioural" changes to protect Sky News from direct influence from the Murdoch Family Trust.

The latest proposals include a so-called "sunset clause" relating to the separate agreement between The Walt Disney Company to buy 21CF's entertainment assets - including its 39% Sky stake - for $52bn. Media regulator Ofcom in an earlier step of the deal review had also proposed that Sky News should be protected to preserve its editorial independence.

Sky is 39%-owned by 21CF, controlled by the Murdoch Family Trust - which also controls News Corporation, the publisher of British newspapers including The Sun and The Times. It is due to present media secretary Matt Hancock with a final report by May 1 and he has said he will rule on the deal by June 14.

Fox and Sky after the CMA report didn't immediately discuss their openness to possible remedies, but analysts widely expected them to propose a new governance setup for Sky News.

If the Fox-Sky deal is blocked, and the Disney-Fox deal goes through, Disney would then have to decide whether to make its own offer for the remaining 61% of Sky.

In its response to the CMA, Sky said it considered Fox's proposals would be "an effective and comprehensive solution to any potential concerns".