British authorities on Thursday asked European regulators to further examine 21st Century Fox’s proposed acquisition of European satellite TV provider Sky. The move could delay the deal’s completion by as much as six months.
In December, 21st Century Fox agreed to acquire the 61% of Sky that it didn’t already hold for nearly $15 billion. Five years ago, 21st Century Fox — then still part of News Corp. — tried to buy all of Sky, but was denied after news broke that reporters who worked for News Corp.-owned newspapers had hacked the phones of people they were covering, including the royal family. News Corp. and 21st Century Fox is run by executive chairman Rupert Murdoch, and 21st Century Fox is overseen by his sons James and Lachlan.
“The transaction raises public interest concerns as a result of the risk of increased influence by members of the Murdoch Family Trust over the UK news agenda and the political process, with its unique presence on radio, television, in print and online,” said UK Culture Minister Karen Bradley in a statement to Parliament.
Not helping 21st Century Fox’s case are the numerous sexual-harassment scandals that have rocked its Fox News Channel in the U.S. Fox News’ Founding Chairman, the late Roger Ailes, was forced out last July. Anchor Bill O’Reilly departed in April with as much as a $25 million exit package, and Fox News Co-President Bill Shine followed O’Reilly out the door about ten days later.
The regulatory body that Bradley oversees, the Office of Communications, known in the UK as Ofcom, also reported Thursday that it had determined that 21st Century Fox was “fit and proper” to hold broadcasting licenses in the country. That gets the company over at least one regulatory hurdle, while it works with British regulators to overcome the “public interest” objection.
21st Century Fox has until July 14 to respond before the government formally hands the deal over to Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority for review.
On Tuesday, Ireland approved the deal.
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