Fox Offers to Sell Sky News to Disney to Satisfy Regulators

21 Century Fox has said it could sell Sky News to the Walt Disney Co. in order to get approval for its purchase of the rest of satellite broadcaster Sky.

Fox already owns 39% of Sky but its $15 billion proposal to acquire the remaining shares has been stuck in regulatory review by the British government since December 2016.

Fox, controlled by Rupert Murdoch, has already agreed to sell many of its cable and studio assets to Disney. Comcast has made a competing bid for those assets.

In order to satisfy British regulators reviewing its Sky bid, Fox submitted two remedies.

One would establish Sky News as a distinct company within Sky Group with an independent board to assure its independence. Murdoch also pledged that he and his sons would not attempt to influence the editorial choices made by the head of Sky News.

The second option would involve selling Sky News to Disney as part of the already proposed transaction with Disney. Disney has expressed an interest in acquiring Sky News, Fox said.

“We have worked diligently with the [Competition and Markets Authority] throughout its extensive review,” Fox said in a statement. These enhanced remedies went above and beyond what Ofcom, the expert, independent regulator on UK broadcasting, had stated would mitigate concerns around media plurality.”

“We are aware that a group of politicians that is opposed to the transaction is seeking to influence the CMA and is making a number of unsupported and fanciful assertions,” Fox added. “If the CMA were to accept at face value these assertions and be dissatisfied with enhanced remedies that are a direct and reasonable response to concerns it had raised with us, we believe that this would compromise the integrity of a system which is supposed to be objective, evidenced-based and grounded on the application of established legal principles.”

Some British officials have said that buying Sky would give the Murdochs too much power in the media market. They’ve also pointed to a number of scandals, including the cell phone hacking by their London newspaper and sexual harassment charges at Fox News, as signs Fox is not a fit owner of media properties.

Fox said it remains committed to working with regulators, but is keeping open all of its legal options.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.