U.K. Lawmaker Pulls Fox-Sky Proposal in Bid to Gain SupportBy
Filmmaker Puttnam says he hopes to sway government ministers
Opposition comes as government considers Ofcom referral
Film producer and lawmaker David Puttnam withdrew amendments to the U.K. Digital Economy Bill, a tactical move to build support for measures that would hamper Rupert Murdoch’s bid to join 21st Century Fox with Sky Plc.
Puttnam withdrew the amendments in a standard process in the U.K.’s unelected House of Lords that allows the government to make changes to the bill itself to meet its opponents halfway. The shift avoids an immediate political fight, and gives Puttnam time to refine his arguments and try to sway key ministers to adopt a tougher stance toward the 11.7 billion-pound ($14.7 billion) deal.
Puttnam and his supporters, who include the media lobbying group Hacked Off, want those who buy into a substantial media group to pass the same fit-and-proper tests that are applied to existing television license holders. He said he hopes Karen Bradley, the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, will incorporate his views into her decision on whether to send the transaction to regulator Ofcom for review, and what standards to apply.
“When it comes to the issue of media ownership and any suspicion of undue pressure, this House will again vote overwhelmingly in favor should I press these amendments,” Puttnam said Wednesday in the House of Lords. “I would infinitely prefer the government to come back and offer the sense of security that I seek.”
The government now has a couple of weeks to consider making changes to the bill before Puttnam decides whether to bring revised amendments to the House of Lords.
Puttnam, 75, is a Labour Party member. He’s best known for 1978’s “Midnight Express” and “Chariots of Fire” in 1981.
Ed Miliband, a member of Parliament’s House of Commons and former Labour leader, sent a letter to Ofcom Thursday asking the regulator to apply a new fit-and-proper test to Sky’s ownership in light of Fox’s bid for full ownership.
— With assistance by William Canny, Robert Hutton, and Thomas Penny
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