British Regulators to Investigate 21st Century Fox’s Deal for Sky

British Regulators to Investigate 21st Century Fox’s Deal for Sky

- in World Biz

The Sky employee shuttle in London. 21st Century Fox said in December that it had reached a deal to take full control of Sky.

Toby Melville/Reuters

LONDON — Britain asked regulators on Thursday to investigate whether 21st Century Fox’s $14.3 billion deal to take full control of the British satellite television giant Sky would give the media mogul Rupert Murdoch too much control over the country’s media landscape.

The takeover for the 61 percent of Sky that 21st Century Fox does not already own was agreed on in December and is the second such effort to combine the two companies since 2011. The latest attempt quickly raised a wave of criticism in Britain, where Mr. Murdoch already holds several media interests.

Karen Bradley, Britain’s minister for culture, media and sport, said in a statement to Parliament on Thursday that she had referred the deal to regulators “on the grounds of media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards.”

Ms. Bradley said that although 21st Century Fox had contested her position, “none of the representations have led me to dismiss the concerns I have” regarding public interest issues.

“I am of the view that it remains both important, given the issues raised, and wholly appropriate for me to seek comprehensive advice from Ofcom on these public interest considerations and from the C.M.A. on jurisdiction issues,” she said, referring to Ofcom, Britain’s broadcast and communications regulator, and the Competition and Markets Authority. The two regulators have until mid-May to report back to her.

Along with the investigation in Britain, the merger is expected to face a review by antitrust regulators in the European Union. Sky offers television, broadband and telephone services to nearly 22 million customers in Austria, Britain, Germany, Ireland and Italy.

Concern over Mr. Murdoch’s role in the British media has been a major issue over the years.

In 2011, News Corporation, 21st Century Fox’s predecessor company, made and then withdrew a $12 billion offer for Sky as it was confronted with a controversy over phone hacking by journalists in Britain.

News Corporation, which is now a sister company of 21st Century Fox after the two split, owns the British daily newspapers The Sun and The Times of London, as well as The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Murdoch is executive chairman of both companies.

When 21st Century Fox, which is based in New York, announced the takeover of Sky in December, it said it expected the transaction to close by the end of this year.

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