U.K.’s Bradley Mulls Fox/Sky Concerns Amid Attacks on MurdochsThomas Penny and Svenja O'Donnell
Decision will be made on calling in bid once formally notified
Culture secretary refuses to address detail of criticisms
U.K. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said she understands the concerns of the public and Parliament over the proposed takeover of Sky Plc by 21st Century Fox Inc. but cannot address them until she is formally notified of Rupert Murdoch’s bid to take full control of Europe’s dominant pay-television company.
Asked repeatedly in Parliament in London on Tuesday about the bid and the Murdoch family, Bradley said she is unable to express a view as she has a “quasi-judicial” role in deciding whether U.K. regulators need to review the deal.
“I understand the significant public and parliamentary interest there is in this matter and I do not for a moment underestimate that,” Bradley said. “The most important concern for me is that the integrity of the process is upheld.”
Bradley will aim to make a decision over whether to intervene on public-interest grounds within 10 days of being formally notified of the 11.7 billion-pound ($14 billion) bid, she told lawmakers. She reassured them she “will not be taking a break over Christmas” and will update them after the holiday. The House of Commons was holding its final session Tuesday before going into recess until Jan. 9.
Criticism from the opposition Labour Party centered around findings against Murdoch and his son James when they last attempted to wrest control of Sky in 2011. That bid was withdrawn in the midst of allegations about phone hacking at their now closed News of the World newspaper.
“On the steps of Downing Street, the prime minister said she would stand up to the powerful. If ever there was a chance to prove it, it is today,” former Labour leader Ed Miliband told lawmakers. “We all said in 2011 that never again, across this house, would we allow the Murdochs to wield unfettered power. Yet here we are all over again.”
Lawmakers from Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, the son of the former editor of Murdoch’s Times newspaper, said the criticism is being overplayed by Murdoch’s political opponents.
“Sky has provided, thanks to Rupert Murdoch, who risked his whole business on it in about 1990, incredible choice to millions of people,” Rees-Mogg said. “We should be proud it happened in Britain and should be proud this huge investment is potentially coming into our nation.”
Bradley should not “fall tempted by the siren voices of socialist ingrates,” he said.