On 9 December 2016 Sky Plc announced that it had received an approach from 21st Century Fox to acquire the 61% share of Sky Plc which it does not already own.
On 16 March, the then Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, confirmed in a statement to Parliament, that she would be intervening in the proposed merger under the Enterprise Act 2002 so that issues raised under the two specified public interest grounds mentioned in her Intervention Notice - namely the effect of the merger on media plurality and on the parties’ commitment to broadcasting standards could be fully considered. Her Intervention Notice required Ofcom, the communications regulator, to submit a Phase 1 report on the public interest considerations raised by the Secretary of State. Ofcom’s Phase 1 report was received on 20 June 2017 and published by DCMS on 29 June.
The Secretary of State carefully considered the Phase 1 report from Ofcom and representations from the parties to the merger and third parties. She also considered a separate Phase 1 report by the Competition and Markets’ Authority (CMA) on jurisdictional issues. Following this, the Secretary of State confirmed in statement to Parliament on 29 June that she was minded-to refer the merger for a further more detailed Phase 2 investigation by the CMA on media plurality grounds. After consideration of representations received and having considered further advice that she had requested from Ofcom, the Secretary of State announced on 12 September that she was now also minded to refer the bid to the CMA on commitment to broadcasting standards grounds.
On 14 September the then Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, confirmed that, following confirmation from the parties that they would not be making substantive representations in response to the minded-to decision on broadcasting standards, she had reached a final decision to refer on both grounds and issued her formal referral to the CMA for the Phase 2 investigation on 20 September.
From the point of referral, the CMA initially had 24 weeks to investigate the merger and provide advice to Secretary of State, Matthew Hancock. On 23 January, alongside publishing its provisional findings report, the CMA confirmed it would be extending the deadline for the report by eight weeks to 1 May.
The Secretary of State received the CMA’s report on 1 May, allowing him 30 working days - until 13 June - to come to a final decision on whether or not the merger operates, or may be expected to operate, against the public interest.
On 5 June, the Secretary of State published the CMA’s Phase 2 report, announcing that he accepted the CMA’s recommendations on the public interest grounds and outlining the process for consideration of potential remedies.