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
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’