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Murdoch Bid for Sky Control Hits New Bump as UK Official Hints at Inquiry – New York Times

On Tuesday, Ms. Bradley said that concerns about public interest and corporate governance issues warranted further investigation.

An in-depth inquiry could take up to six months and would further delay the proposed transaction. That would be a setback for Mr. Murdoch, who founded the satellite broadcaster in the early 1990s and has long sought total ownership of it.

An acquisition of Sky would give 21st Century Fox control of a Pan-European satellite network and rights to additional content, including broadcasts of English Premier League and other soccer leagues in parts of Europe.

Fox announced in December that it had reached an agreement to pay about $15 billion for the portion of Sky that it did not already own.

Sky offers television, broadband and telephone phone services to nearly 22 million customers in Austria, Britain, Germany, Ireland and Italy. European Union antitrust authorities approved the deal in April, saying it raised no competition concerns in Europe.

But the merger has drawn significant scrutiny in Britain, where Mr. Murdoch remains a divisive figure.

A previous bid for Sky was withdrawn in 2011 after a firestorm erupted over phone hacking by the news media in Britain, which engulfed Mr. Murdoch’s British newspaper division.

The British competition authority offered its initial view on the transaction in June, saying the merged company would control a significant chunk of Britain’s media landscape, including television, newspaper and online outlets.

Fox said at the time that it had made concessions to address those concerns, but the British government said the remedies did not go far enough.

Analysts had long anticipated a move by 21st Century Fox to gain full control of Sky as media companies seek to grow, control more content and distribute that content directly to customers in hopes of keeping pace with companies like Netflix and Amazon. Mr. Murdoch’s company had said that its existing stake in Sky was “not a natural end position.”

But 21st Century Fox has struggled to move past the sexual harassment scandal.

Douglas Wigdor, a lawyer for several current and former Fox News employees who made sexual and racial harassment complaints against the network, has alerted British regulators about the details of those cases in the past several months. He said he was pleased that Ms. Bradley was leaning toward calling for a more thorough review.

“There is a lot that they still can find out, especially with respect to people who are bound by confidentiality,” Mr. Wigdor said. “Hopefully, they will take steps to get Fox to waive those so that other people can speak and that the government can make a determination as to whether they meet broadcasting standards with a full set of facts.”


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Murdoch Bid for Sky Control Hits New Bump as UK Official Hints at Inquiry – New York Times

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