Oral statement to Parliament

Sky: 21st Century Fox Takeover Bid - answer to urgent question 20 Dec 2016

Answer to Ed Miliband MP asking the the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to make a statement on the timetable of, and the approach of the Government to, 21st Century Fox’s bid to take over Sky now that the bid has been agreed, and whether the Government plan to refer the bid to the competition authorities.

The Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP

As hon. and right hon. Members know, Sky plc announced on Friday 9 December that it had received an approach from 21st Century Fox Inc. to acquire the 61% of shares in Sky plc that it does not already own. The Minister for Digital and Culture, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Suffolk (Matt Hancock), made a statement on 12 December about the proposed bid and the process that would need to be followed. I recognise that this is an issue of significant interest to the public and that it has raised a lot of interest in Parliament, as well as being a significant issue for the parties concerned. It is very important I make it clear that the role I will play in this process is a quasi-judicial one. As the Secretary of State, I am able to intervene in certain media mergers on public interest grounds, as set out in the Enterprise Act 2002. Government guidance on the operation of the public interest merger provisions under the Act gives an indication of how the intervention regime will operate in practice and of the approach I will aim to take. The most important concern for me is that the integrity of the process is upheld. The guidance makes it clear that I will aim to take an initial decision on whether to intervene on public interest grounds within 10 working days of formal notification of the merger to the relevant competition authority.

No such formal notification has yet been made. Unless and until a formal notification is made to the relevant competition authority, I will not be taking any decisions in relation to the bid. It is for the parties formally to notify the relevant competition authorities. It is at that point that I will need to consider whether any of the public interests specified in the legislation merit an intervention. My decision on whether or not to intervene will be a quasi-judicial one, and it is important that I am able to act independently and that the process is scrupulously fair and impartial. Given that, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on this proposed bid at this point if the integrity of the process is to be protected and everyone’s interests are to be treated fairly.

What I can say is that I understand the significant public and parliamentary interest in this matter, and I do not for a minute underestimate it. This is also clearly a significant issue for the parties to the bid. It is therefore crucial that the integrity of the process is protected. I will not be making any further comment on the process or the merits of the bid today, but I can confirm that this matter is being treated with the utmost seriousness and that, should the parties formally notify the bid to the relevant competition authorities, I will act in line with the relevant legislation, the guidance and the quasi-judicial principles.

Published 20 December 2016