21st Century moves to ensure Sky News' independence

21st Century Fox has offered to shield Sky News from Rupert Murdoch's influence and ensure its future for five years in an attempt to push through an £11.7 billion takeover bid for Sky.

The Murdoch-owned group has tabled a series of measures to "guarantee" the editorial independence of Sky News following concerns from Britain's competition watchdog that a tie-up would hand the tycoon too much control over UK media.

It told the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) that it would set up an independent board charged with outlining the media organisation's editorial strategy and direction.

Rupert Murdoch (Ian West/PA)
Rupert Murdoch (Ian West/PA)

The move comes after the CMA found last month that Fox's deal to buy the 61% of Sky it does not already own was "not in the public interest".

Fox said its so-called "firewall remedies" would provide a commitment that "no employee or officer of 21st Century Fox, or a member of the 21st Century Fox board who is a trustee or beneficiary of the Murdoch Family Trust, will influence or attempt to influence the editorial choices made by the head of Sky News."

The CMA suggested ways it felt Fox could address its concerns, including spinning off Sky News, or "behavioural" changes to protect Sky News from direct influence from the Murdoch Family Trust.

However, an ongoing tussle over the deal has the potential to complicate Walt Disney's 66 billion US dollar (£47 billion) takeover of 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets, including Sky.

Fox said the remedies outlined by the group would cease to exist once the Disney takeover is sealed.

In response to the CMA, Sky said: "The remedies proposed by 21st Century Fox - a combination of structural separation of Sky News governance and editorial decision making from the merged entity, underpinned by robust behavioural commitments - would be an effective and comprehensive solution to any potential concerns arising from the transaction."

The competition watchdog has until May 1 before sending its final report on the bid to Culture Secretary Matt Hancock, who will then have 30 working days to make a final decision.

Shares in Sky were marginally higher, up 4p to 1,051p, in afternoon trading on the London Stock Exchange.

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