The Government will decide on whether 21st Century Fox’s proposed £11.7 billion takeover of Sky is in the public interest in the next 30 working days.
Rupert Murdoch’s Fox is attempting to buy the 61% of Sky that it does not already own, but the bid has been complicated by competition concerns and rival offers.
Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has received a report from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) detailing its investigation into a possible merger of the two media giants.
In a written ministerial statement, Mr Hancock said he will decide on whether the merger can go ahead by June 13.
“My decision will be on whether the merger operates or may be expected to operate against the public interest, taking into account the specified public interest considerations of media plurality and genuine commitment to broadcasting standards,” he said.
If Mr Hancock concludes the deal is not in the public interest, he will then start a consultation on what actions to take next.
The CMA opened an investigation into the Fox-Sky deal because Mr Murdoch already has significant interests in the media industry. Bringing Sky News into his media empire could threaten plurality in the UK’s news sector.
However, the future of the merger between Fox and Sky was thrown into doubt last week when US media giant Comcast unveiled a £22 billion offer for Sky.
Comcast’s audacious pitch prompted Sky to withdraw its recommendation for a tie-up with Fox, which has offered £11.7 billion for the business.
The bid is yet to be given the backing of the Sky board, which is being advised by PJT Partners, Morgan Stanley and Barclays, but Comcast said it was in talks with the Sky Independent Committee “with a view to obtaining a future recommendation of the acquisition”.
Fox is “considering its options” after Comcast gatecrashed its bid, saying it “remains committed to its recommended cash offer for Sky”.
Walt Disney has also expressed an interest in Sky, saying it would take on Sky News to help Mr Murdoch side-step competition concerns.