Rupert Murdoch’s battle to take full control of Sky, which has been subject to a series of intense Government reviews, has received a surprise boost.
MP Ian Paisley Junior – the DUP’s culture, media and sport spokesman – has written to Culture Secretary Matt Hancock calling for ‘the same level of scrutiny’ of Comcast’s £22billion bid for Sky as Murdoch’s offer.
The Competition and Markets Authority is poised to rule on the bid for Sky by Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox on Tuesday.
Decision time: The Competition and Markets Authority is poised to rule on the bid for Sky by Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox on Tuesday
The watchdog is examining whether full ownership of Sky, which also owns Sky News, would give Murdoch too much power over UK media. He also owns The Sun and The Times.
Hancock then has until mid-June to rule on the Fox bid, by which time it will have been under review for 16 months.
Comcast, which owns NBC Universal, made its offer for the pay TV giant formal last week. This forced Sky to withdraw its recommendation of Fox’s offer to buy the 61 per cent it does not own, which valued it at £18.5billion.
Fox, controlled by the Murdoch family, could yet raise its bid for Sky. Paisley – who heavily criticised Murdoch’s News of the World in 2011 over phone hacking – wants Comcast to face the same scrutiny as Fox and ‘the same low threshold for referral’ to the CMA. ‘Equal treatment is essential to ensure a robust legal framework,’ he said.
Comcast is thought to have already begun a charm offensive with key bodies such as the Takeover Panel, Ofcom and Hancock’s department.
Separately, Disney has agreed a £47billion deal to buy Fox’s entertainment business, which includes its Sky stake. Disney could even bid for Sky outright.