I share constituents’ concerns that the proposed takeover of Sky by 21st Century Fox threatens media plurality and would concentrate an even larger amount of media to the Murdoch Family Trust.
On March 16, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport issued a European Intervention Notice, which asked Ofcom to consider whether there would be sufficient plurality if the takeover of Sky went ahead.
In its report to the Secretary of State, Ofcom warned that the proposed transaction would ‘give the Murdoch Family Trust material influence over news providers with a significant presence on television, radio, printed newspapers and online’ and recommended the bid be referred to a phase 2 investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority. Ofcom did, however, conclude that, despite the phone-hacking scandal and serious problems at Fox News in America, the Murdoch family remain fit and proper to hold a broadcasting licence.
This finding is disappointing. In order to ensure that all the facts about corporate governance failure and criminality at News International comes to light, to enable a full assessment of whether James and Rupert Murdoch should be allowed to obtain 100 per cent control of Sky, Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry must go ahead. This is vital to investigate the corporate governance failures that allowed the phone hacking scandal to take place.
At the recent General Election, I stood on a manifesto that committed to fully implement the recommendations of Part 1 of Leveson and to commence Part 2. I can assure you that I will continue to press for Leveson to be implemented in full.
In June, the Secretary of State announced that on the basis of Ofcom’s assessment she was minded to refer the proposed merger to the Competition and Markets Authority to conduct a further examination of the deal on the grounds of media plurality. Despite this announcement, I fear that the government is yet to make a final decision and could choose to accept concessions made by 21st Century Fox instead of referring the deal to a further stage of inquiry. This would throw the integrity of this process into question.
It is clear that the government should look again at the laws governing media ownership and I will continue to press for the rules to be reviewed.