Britain toughens stance on Murdoch's bid for Sky

Karen Bradley refers Fox  Sky takeover bid to the Competition and Markets Authority

Bradley said earlier she has been assessing thousands of responses following a consultation into the controversial bid by Rupert Murdoch to takeover the United Kingdom pay-television broadcaster.

"Third parties also raised concerns about what they termed the "Foxification" of Fox-owned news outlets internationally". These, she said, were matters the CMA may wish to consider in the event of a referral.

The £11.7 billion deal now faces a six-month investigation.

I have taken careful account of all relevant representations and Ofcom's advice and have, today - as required by the legislation - written to the parties to inform them I am now minded-to-refer the merger to the CMA on the grounds of genuine commitment to broadcasting standards.

Corporate governance issues, although overlapping on broadcast standards, will be considered by the CMA.

On July 20, Bradley had said that while the British parliament would go on its summer recess, she would continue to review submissions on the deal and next steps and make a final decision on how to proceed within weeks.

Overall, around 30 of the 43 thousand representations were substantive, raising potentially new evidence or commenting on Ofcom's approach.

Anti-Murdoch campaigners had lobbied hard to stop the deal, with Labour MPs including Ed Miliband saying the Murdochs are not "fit and proper" owners of the broadcast group. Adding Sky News to the mix would give the Murdoch family influence over a third of the news sources used in the United Kingdom, according to a June report by communications watchdog Ofcom.

Bradley still has ten days before her decision is finalised and the deal could still be given the go-ahead.

In a statement, Sky said that it was disappointed by the delay and that the Secretary was minded to refer the takeover to the CMA on the grounds of broadcasting standards despite Ofcom maintaining its advice that there are no sufficient concerns to warrant such a referral.

21st Century Fox struck a preliminary deal to snap up the 61 per cent of Sky that it does not already own in December previous year.

White responded on 25 August: "We were aware of this evidence but we did not consider it to be both new and material so as to affect our view on the broadcast standards public interest consideration". She was not confident that weaknesses in Fox's corporate governance arrangements were incapable of affecting compliance in the broadcasting standards context. The conglomerate in December agreed to buy the remaining roughly 61 percent stake in Sky for 11.7 billion pounds, which was about $14.5 billion at the time, or $15.2 billion now.

A separate review by the European Commission has already given a green light to the takeover.

Bradley was under high pressure to carry out further investigation.