The authority will take about six months to investigation whether Fox and the Murdoch family would wield too much power on the British media landscape as a result of the merger and whether they are “fit and proper” owners who would uphold local broadcasting standards.
The decision is a blow for Fox, which had counted on the deal closing by the end of the year. It now faces a delay that not only puts off its long-desired acquisition of European pay-TV giant Sky but also makes it liable to pay a hefty penalty to Sky shareholders for failing to meet the year-end deadline.
Culture minister Karen Bradley had announced Tuesday that she was “minded to” call in the Competition and Markets Authority to examine the takeover bid on both grounds of media plurality and “fit and proper” ownership, saying she was not wholly satisfied by Fox’s assurances that it would adhere to broadcasting standards. Previously she had only been inclined to send the bid to the authority for scrutiny of the plurality question.
Bradley gave Fox and Sky 10 days to submit more comments or declarations before issuing her final decision. But she said Thursday that they had declined to do so.
“Yesterday I received letters on behalf of both parties to the merger confirming that while they disagree with my minded-to decision, they would not be making substantive representations in relation to it,” Bradley said in a statement. “As a result, I can confirm my final decision is to refer the merger to the CMA for a Phase 2 investigation on media plurality and genuine commitment to broadcasting standards grounds. I will issue and publish my formal referral decision in the coming days.”