Sky and 21st Century Fox Takeover Bid

March 2017

I have received a lot of correspondence from constituents about 21st Century Fox's proposed purchase of Sky. As a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, I have been following this issue closely. 
Under the powers set out in the Enterprise Act 2002, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has a quasi-judicial role that allows her to intervene on the basis of specified media public interest considerations. These considerations refer to the need for there to be a sufficient plurality of media ownership, for the availability of a wide range of high-quality broadcasting and for those with control of media enterprises to have a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards objectives. 
On 3 March 2017 the European Commission confirmed that it had received formal notification of the proposed merger, following which the Secretary of State wrote to the parties informing them that she is minded to intervene on two public interest grounds - media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards objectives. Whilst I understand the wish for the bid to be held to a "fit and proper" test, this does not fall under the Culture Secretary's remit. The "fit and proper" test is a matter for Ofcom and is an ongoing test for Ofcom to apply to the holders of broadcasting licenses. The test is different from the grounds on which the Culture Secretary can intervene on a media merger under the terms of the Enterprise Act. 
The Culture Secretary's letter does not constitute a final decision. The parties have been invited to make further representations, following which the Secretary of State will come to a final decision on whether to intervene and will aim to do so - in line with guidance - within ten working days of the merger being formally notified. This consultation is for the parties involved - not for MPs. It is important to note that the role of the Secretary of State is a quasi-judicial one, and it is crucial that she acts independently and is not subject to improper influence. 

Personally, though, I look forward to seeing the further representations made by the interested parties and if I believe that the merger would not be in the public interest then I will let that be known, but I am waiting for the final submissions before I make up my mind.