Rupert Murdoch's Sky bid under investigation

Concerns whether his family would be "fit and proper" owners...

Rupert Murdoch's Sky bid under investigation

File photo of News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch at the National Summit on Education Reform in San Francisco | Image: Noah Berger / AP/Press Association Images

The UK's culture secretary has instructed independent media regulator Ofcom to investigate Rupert Murdoch's planned £11.7bn (€13.47bn) takeover of Sky over concerns it would give him too much control over the British media.

The media magnate's 21st Century Fox is looking to buy the 61% of Sky that it does not already own.

However, Karen Bradley has flagged the takeover on two issues of public interest.

According to The Guardian, she told MPs today that she had issued a European intervention notice on grounds of "media plurality and commitments to broadcasting standards" linked to Murdoch's bid.

Bradley said that he had received over 700 representations on the deal from third parties – "the vast majority of which supported intervention".

A takeover would give Murdoch's family full control of Sky News, The SunTimes of LondonSunday Times and the TalkSport radio group, through News Corp.

UK Culture Secretary Karen Bradley speaks in the House of Commons, London. Picture by: PA/PA Wire/PA Images

The issue of editorial standards is particularly pertinent following the phone-hacking scandal that hit Murdoch's now-defunct News Corporation. Ofcom found in that case that James Murdoch, then-CEO of his father's UK newspaper group and Sky chairman, repeatedly fell short of expected standards. 

It put paid to an earlier bid for Sky in 2011, and saw Murdoch spin off print assets into the new News Corp and film and TV into 21st Century Fox.

James Murdoch, now chief executive of Fox, was reappointed chairman of Sky last year. 

Shadow culture secretary Tom Watson and fellow Labour MP Ed Miliband raised concerns in parliament that Ofcom's 40-day time limit would not be long enough to conduct a "fit and proper" review. 

Watson said:

"A comprehensive ‘fit and proper’ test will take time, so that all of the Murdoch's failures of corporate governance during the phone-hacking scandal and elsewhere can be properly investigated."

Bradley responded:

"Ofcom have assured me they have the time and powers they need."

Meanwhile, Lord Grade – former chief executive of ITV and Channel 4 and former chairman of the BBC – told ITV News:

"I can't see any good reason to stop [the takeover]. I think the world has moved on. There's so much choice today, anyone can start a news channel, broadcasting is open to all-comers."