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British regulators have requested more time to review 21st Century Fox’s deal to acquire pay-TV service Sky.
British government officials have dealt a setback to 21st Century Fox’s pending deal to take over European pay-TV service Sky.
The takeover now will be examined by the Competition and Markets Authority, which will determine whether the acquisition gives the Murdochs, who control 21st Century Fox, too much influence over British media. The family already owns a number of major newspapers in the country, including the Times of London.
While the Office of Communications, Britain’s broadcast regulator known as Ofcom, has deemed that the Murdochs were found to be “fit and proper” owners of Sky, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley raised concerns regarding adherence to broadcast standards. Bradley also made the call on having further scrutiny of the deal’s impact on media concentration in Britain.
Inquiries by the Competition and Markets Authority can take up to six months to complete. The company said the $15-billion deal to acquire the 61% of Sky that it does not own is now scheduled to close in June.
Critics of the deal have feared that Sky TV would take on the characteristics of Fox News Channel, which mixes in right-wing partisan commentary with its reporting in the U. S.
Fox News also has been at the center of a sexual harassment scandal that has engulfed 21st Century Fox and has led to the firing of on-air talent and executives. The highly profitable unit also has been hit with a racial discrimination lawsuit from present and former black employees.
The company has investigated harassment claims since former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson filed suit against the news organization’s founding chief executive, Roger Ailes, who died in May. Mindful of the British regulators, 21st Century Fox has severed ties with most of the employees who have faced allegations.
In a statement, 21st Century Fox said it was disappointed in the decision, citing Ofcom’s earlier comments that said there were no concerns about broadcast standards.
“We urge the secretary of state to take a final decision quickly, ” Fox said.
Sky, which broadcasts Premier League soccer in Britain and other European markets, is valued at $25 billion.
An earlier attempt to take over Sky was derailed by the 2011 phone-hacking scandal involving Murdoch’s British newspapers. The company was forced to close its News of the World tabloid, the chief offender in the investigation.
stephen.battaglio@latimes.com
Twitter: @SteveBattaglio