Fox-Sky deal a test of UK’s am­bi­tions, says Mur­doch

‘Con­fi­dent’ Fox chief ex­ec­u­tive claims Bri­tain must put out a ‘pos­i­tive sig­nal’ to rest of the world

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Christo­pher Wil­liams

JAMES MUR­DOCH has warned the Gov­ern­ment that 21st Cen­tury Fox’s £11.7bn takeover of Sky is a test of claims that Bri­tain will re­main open for busi­ness af­ter Brexit.

In the wake of the de­ci­sion by Karen Bradley, the Cul­ture Sec­re­tary, to trig­ger an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Fox’s com­mit­ment to broad­cast­ing stan­dards, Mr Mur­doch said Sky and the coun­try could lose clout in the shift­ing global me­dia land­scape if the deal fails.

He said min­is­ters would not take a meet­ing with him but added: “There is this huge op­por­tu­nity for com­pa­nies and coun­tries will­ing to act de­ci­sively and cap­i­talise on the eco­nomic and so­cial ben­e­fits that this in­dus­try can cre­ate. In­ward in­vest­ment in the UK cre­ative econ­omy and the pos­i­tive sig­nal it sends to com­pa­nies around the world is more im­por­tant than ever as the UK pre­pares to chart its course out­side the EU.

“If the UK truly is open for busi­ness post Brexit we look for­ward to mov­ing through the reg­u­la­tory review process and this trans­for­ma­tive trans­ac­tion for the UK cre­ative sec­tor be­com­ing an af­fir­ma­tion of that claim.”

Speak­ing at the Royal Tele­vi­sion So­ci­ety Con­ven­tion in Cam­bridge, the 44-year-old chief ex­ec­u­tive of Fox de­fended the com­pli­ance record of Fox

News and his han­dling of sex­ual ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions at the bom­bas­tic US news chan­nel.

Ms Bradley over­ruled Of­com this week by say­ing the Com­pe­ti­tion and Mar­kets Au­thor­ity (CMA) should in­ves­ti­gate “non-fan­ci­ful” con­cerns that broad­cast­ing stan­dards at Sky could be dam­aged by full Mur­doch con­trol.

The com­pe­ti­tion watch­dog will also in­ves­ti­gate the ef­fect of the deal on me­dia plu­ral­ity.

Mr Mur­doch said: “We’re pretty con­fi­dent as we go through this be­cause the in­de­pen­dent ex­pert reg­u­la­tor … they did a re­ally thor­ough job.”

“As the founder of Sky News we owned 100pc of it for many, many years [and] there were no is­sues. And when I was chief ex­ec­u­tive [of Sky] no is­sues. And when I was chair­man, and I’m chair­man again, no is­sues. The record has to count for some­thing.”

“The first thing about Fox News is it is com­pletely de­signed for an Amer­i­can au­di­ence.”

Mr Mur­doch dis­tanced him­self from the right-wing views of his fa­ther Ru­pert. The 86-year-old me­dia mogul’s po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies, in­clud­ing for­mer Labour leader Ed Miliband, have mounted a cam­paign against the fam­ily’s sec­ond at­tempt to take full con­trol

of Sky. Mr Mur­doch said: “In the US, in some sec­tors, they think I’m a rag­ing lib­eral en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist tree­hug­ger.

“Here I’m the Right-wing de­mon who is go­ing to Fox­ify ev­ery­thing. I’m glad of that be­cause I think mys­tery is an im­por­tant part of an iden­tity.”

Mr Mur­doch ad­dressed tele­vi­sion ex­ec­u­tives hours af­ter Ms Bradley con­firmed her fi­nal de­ci­sion to re­fer the deal for in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the CMA on both broad­cast­ing stan­dards and me­dia plu­ral­ity grounds.

She said on Tues­day she was “minded to” trig­ger the probe and that there would be 10 days for Sky and Fox to make fur­ther rep­re­sen­ta­tions.

The two com­pa­nies told the Gov­ern­ment yes­ter­day they would not seek to per­suade her to change her mind.

Of­com had ad­vised Ms Bradley that there may be me­dia plu­ral­ity con­cerns wor­thy of in­ves­ti­ga­tion but that com­pli­ance and cor­po­rate gov­er­nance fail­ings at Fox News did not jus­tify CMA scru­tiny of broad­cast­ing stan­dards in the Mur­doch em­pire.

Hav­ing over­ruled the me­dia reg­u­la­tor, Ms Bradley said that she would is­sue her for­mal re­fer­ral de­ci­sion “in the com­ing days”.

The CMA will then have six months to in­ves­ti­gate.

A Fox spokesman said: “We now look for­ward to en­gag­ing con­struc­tively with the CMA, as in­de­pen­dent au­thor­ity, and hope that the find­ings of this process will be re­spected by the Sec­re­tary of State.”

‘To some in the US I’m a lib­eral en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist tree-hugger. Here I’m the Right-wing de­mon’

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