UK Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Karen Bradley, has confirmed that following her request for advice and clarification in light of representations received in relation to the proposed merger, the broadcast regulator has submitted additional advice regarding the deal.
On 29th June 2017, Bradley referred the bid to the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, having been minded to refer it for a fuller investigation due to concerns regarding plurality of media ownership following an investigation into the action by UK broadcast regulator Ofcom.
The regulator was asked to consider whether there would be sufficient plurality of persons with control of the media enterprises, and whether the parties would have genuine commitment to the attainment in relation to broadcasting of standards objectives. Its report concluded that the proposed transaction raises public interest concerns relating to media plurality. In addition, Ofcom noted that the deal as it stood contained a 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. Ofcom considered these concerns may justify a reference by the Secretary of State to the Competition and Markets Authority.
As regards this latest development, Bradley said that she would now “carefully consider” the additional advice before making her decision on referral on the basis of all the evidence before her, and will do so “as soon as is reasonably practicable.” She also stated that the full nature of the request to Ofcom will be published in due course and the regulator intends to publish its advice at the same time.
Bradley said in June that she had expected to be in a position to come to a final decision on referral — including in respect of the broadcasting standard ground — in the coming weeks.