LONDON (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox (FOXA.O) said it was not surprised the British government wanted to scrutinize its takeover of Sky (SKYB.L), but disputed the analysis that led to the view the deal may not be in the public interest.
The company, which already owns 39 percent of Sky, agreed in December to buy the rest of the pay-TV group for 11.7 billion pounds ($14.2 billion), triggering a regulatory review of the politically sensitive deal.
Media Secretary Karen Bradley said on Friday she was likely to intervene to see if any one company would control too much of Britain’s media, and whether the new owners would have a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards.
The deal came five years after a political and criminal scandal at Murdoch’s British newspaper business derailed an earlier bid.
In a letter to the Department of Media made public on Wednesday, Fox took issue with what it said were serious flaws in the process that led to the minister saying she was “minded” to refer the deal for a full investigation.
While Fox said it would welcome a thorough regulatory review, it questioned the government’s analysis of Murdoch’s influence on the media market, saying the circulation of his newspapers had fallen and they were now held in a separate company.
It also rejected any suggestion Fox had a weaker record than Sky when it came to broadcasting standards and said it had learned from the mistakes made in the past, when Murdoch’s British newspaper arm admitted that some journalists at the News of the World had hacked into phones.
“Twenty First Century Fox takes compliance matters extremely seriously and is proud of the transformation of its corporate governance and of the arrangements it has put in place since that time,” it said in the letter.
Fox said it would welcome a decision whether to refer the bid to regulators as soon as possible, adding it was prepared to begin working with the regulatory bodies at the earliest opportunity.
Reporting by Paul Sandle and Kate Holton; Editing by Mark Potter