On 15th December Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox company officially lodged its £11.7 billion bid to take full control of Sky TV. Since then I have received over 200 emails from constituents wishing to register their concerns and calling for the bid to be referred to Ofcom.
I agree that the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport should refer the bid to Ofcom so that the regulator can assess whether it would result in too much media power being concentrated in too few hands. They must also assess whether Rupert and James Murdoch are “fit and proper persons” to run a broadcaster.
When Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation sought complete ownership of BSkyB in 2011 the House of Commons united behind a motion calling for the bid to be withdrawn in the public interest. The concerns were not only about the serious wrongdoing being uncovered in the phone hacking scandal, but also about the concentration of media power and ownership in fewer hands.
As soon as Sky announced earlier this month that it had received an approach from 21st Century Fox the Opposition asked an Urgent Question in the House of Commons, forcing the Government to make a statement and pressing ministers to refer the bid to Ofcom. The Government must be prepared to stand up to powerful interests and ensure that this proposed deal is properly and independently scrutinised.
The Government has stated that any transaction will be looked at on its merits, on a case-by-case basis. On 12th December ministers promised to keep the House of Commons updated and I hope the Government will express its view to Parliament before Christmas.
I have now written to Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Culture, Minister and Sport to pass on my constituents’ concerns.