Fox’s proposed takeover of Sky is not in the public interest on grounds of media plurality, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said.
The CMA has provisionally found that if the deal went ahead as planned, it would give the Murdoch family too much control over news providers in the UK.
However, the CMA found the deal would not be against the public interest on the grounds of broadcasting standards.
Disney has agreed to buy most of Fox’s business, so may end up owning Sky. And if the Sky-Fox deal does finally go through, the whole of Sky would be likely to transfer to Disney’s ownership.
Fox has been trying to buy the 61% of Sky that it does not currently own.
But the CMA decided that if this happened, the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT)’s control across all media platforms in the UK would give it too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda.
However, one of Sky’s senior directors remained was still confident that the regulator’s preliminary decision was not the end of the deal.
Sir Martin Gilbert, Sky’s senior independent director, told the BBC: “It still seems likely that Sky can offer concessions that will see this deal go through.”
BBC Business Editor Simon Jack said some investors might favour one of those options – closing the loss-making Sky News – as it might allow shareholders to ask for a higher price from Disney.
The Murdoch family’s news outlets are currently consumed by nearly a third of the UK’s population across TV, radio, online and newspapers.
That is significantly greater than all other news providers, except the BBC and ITV.
In a statement, Fox said it was “disappointed” by the findings. It added: “We will continue to engage with the CMA ahead of the publication of its final report in May.
“We welcome the CMA’s provisional finding that the company has a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards and the transaction would not be against the public interest in this respect.”
Sky said that it noted the CMA verdicts on both sets of grounds and that it “had set out possible remedies” around plurality “and is seeking submissions on these”.