Ofcom chief defends decision on Sky

By:
Natalie Bannerman
Published on:

Ofcom chief, Sharon White, defends decisions reached by the regulator over the controversial Sky takeover bid

Sharon White, Ofcom chief executive, has defended the decision made by the regulator over 21st Century Fox’s proposed takeover of Sky.

The decision to not recommend the media corporation to referral to the competition watchdog has come under scrutiny. In response White said that while the regulator has from some "extremely disturbing" behaviour at Fox News, for which 21st Century Fox is the parent company, it did not believe that Sky was deserving of losing its broadcasting licence following the proposed takeover.

Fox owns 39.1% of Sky is trying to purchase the entire company in a deal worth $18.5 billion.

Earlier this year, the deal was referred by Karen Bradley, the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on the grounds of concerns about media plurality and broadcasting standards.

Ofcom, who carried out the preliminary investigation into the deal referred the deal to the CMA over media plurality but not on broadcasting standards.

When asked by the culture, media and sport select committee about how the decision was reached White said that a thorough review had been carried out adding "We did not find a particular concern that would have caused us to believe that Sky News in particular and Sky as a broadcaster, post-transaction, would not be a fit and proper broadcaster," adding that Sky "currently has a very strong record of compliance on broadcasting."

Labour MP Paul Farrelly, further questioned White on the reports of sexual harassment at Fox News to which she replied: "In the round, we looked at all the corporate governance issues, particularly for Fox News, we found some extremely disturbing and serious behaviour but the consideration for us as a regulator, with the fitness and propriety of a company to hold a broadcast licence, we would need to demonstrate, particularly taking into account issues surrounding freedom of expression and choice for audiences, whether those corporate governance issues…whether those were sufficiently deleterious that, when you weave them into a broadcasting arena, that that would justify the withdrawing of the licences.”

“And our judgement was that the behaviour, particularly at Fox News, was extremely serious and disturbing. We found significant corporate governance failures. But it was also our judgement that you could not, within a broadcasting arena, on a reasonable basis, take the view that Sky would not continue to be a fit and proper broadcaster, “continued White.

Additionally Conservative MP, Rebecca Pow asked whether the regulator had sufficiently scrutinised the deal, White said: "I am absolutely confident we did a professional, independent, expert job."

Unsurprising the subject of BT and its negotiations with Ofcom, with the purpose of boosting investment in the country’s high-speed broadband network. 

Commenting on the high discussions, White Ofcom was "very much holding Openreach to the fire" and said early signs of an improvement in service were "reasonably positive".