Media Matters for America issued a follow-up memo to the U.K.’s chief competitions watchdog, Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), outlining further evidence that a full 21st Century Fox takeover of Sky PLC would portend trouble for the British media landscape. It also called on the CMA to approach Sky’s warning about shutting down Sky News with skepticism.
The submission follows an October 27 CMA hearing at which Media Matters President Angelo Carusone testified alongside other media experts and advocates. Prior to the hearing, Media Matters submitted a report to the CMA detailing concerns with the merger.
Today’s submission highlighted the following concerns and recommendations:
- As exemplified in Fox News’ culture of sexual harassment and racial discrimination, there is an identifiable link between 21st Century Fox’s poor corporate governance and what is broadcast on the news outlets it owns.
- Recent Russia-related coverage and commentary on Fox News and in The Wall Street Journal signify that the Murdochs and their news outlets continue to meddle in politics in damaging ways.
- Regulators should be acutely aware that the line separating opinion and news programming at Fox News is nonexistent. The hiring of former White House national security aide Sebastian Gorka to a news position and a recent report from British broadcasting regulator Ofcom ruling that individual segments on Tucker Carlson Tonight and Hannity were in violation of broadcasting standards reinforce this fact. There are many more segments on Fox News programs from the last year that should be taken into consideration to assess 21st Century Fox’s commitment to broadcasting standards.
- Sky’s warning that Sky News could close if 21st Century Fox’s bid is not approved is suspect at best. No evidence has been presented showing that Sky News’ closure was being planned before 21st Century Fox’s proposed acquisition.
- The CMA should also consider that aside from Sky News, 21st Century Fox post-merger would have access to -- and potentially take financial and political advantage of -- information about consumers by way of internet service.
Media Matters has actively opposed 21st Century Fox’s proposed takeover of Sky PLC since it was first announced. On March 30, Media Matters submitted, in partnership with global activism group Avaaz, a report to Ofcom that detailed the risks the Murdochs' desired takeover of Sky pose to British broadcasting standards. Media Matters and Avaaz had previously submitted a report to Karen Bradley, U.K.’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, demonstrating that the risk of “Foxification” of Britain’s public debate is too great for Bradley to simply rubber-stamp a Murdoch takeover of Sky.
Rupert Murdoch abandoned a previous bid for full ownership of the company in light of an investigation into a mass phone hacking scandal at his U.K.-based newspapers. Following an investigation, a parliamentary report found that Murdoch was “not a fit person” to run a major corporation and that his son James had showed “wilful ignorance” of the industrial-scale hacking.