I share my constituent’s concern that the proposed takeover threatens media plurality and would concentrate an even larger amount of media power in the hands of the Murdoch family.
On 16 March, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport issued a European Intervention Notice, which asked Ofcom to consider whether there would be sufficient plurality if the takeover of Sky went ahead.
In its report, Ofcom warned that the proposed transaction would “give the Murdoch Family Trust material influence over news providers with a significant presence on television, radio, printed newspapers and online” and recommended the bid be referred to a phase 2 investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Ofcom did, however, conclude that, despite the phone-hacking scandal and serious problems at Fox News in America, the Murdoch family remain fit and proper to hold a broadcasting licence.
This finding is disappointing and I agree that to ensure all the facts about corporate governance failure and criminality at News International come to light, to enable a full assessment of whether James and Rupert Murdoch should be allowed to obtain 100% control of Sky, Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry absolutely must go ahead. This is vital to investigate the corporate governance failures that allowed the phone hacking scandal to take place, and I will continue to press for Leveson to be implemented in full.
In June, the Secretary of State announced that she was minded to refer the proposed Fox-Sky Merger to the CMA to conduct a further examination of the deal on the grounds of media plurality. A final decision on this is expected shortly. I believe it is vital that the bid be referred to a phase two investigation on grounds of media plurality, and that Parliament be given the opportunity to scrutinise any decision that is made. However, I also believe there must be an investigation on broadcasting standards grounds.
In response to the Government’s update on 20 July, the Shadow Front Bench stated there is no need for a decision to be announced during the summer recess, arguing that Parliament must have the opportunity, when it returns in September, to scrutinise any decision that is made. The SFB believes it is vital that the Secretary of State refer the bid to a phase two investigation on grounds of media plurality, as she said she is minded to do. However, it also believes there must be an investigation on broadcasting standards grounds. The SFB also reiterated its belief that the Government must go ahead with Part Two of the Leveson inquiry.
It is clear that the Government should look again at the laws governing media ownership and I will continue to press for the rules to be reviewed.
I have written to the Secretary of State to express your concerns and to repeat our request that the decision is not made until Parliament returns so that we can question her decision.