Sky deal: Murdoch faces further delay over Fox bid

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Rupert Murdoch will have to wait a few more weeks to find out whether his bid for control of Sky will be the subject of an in-depth competition probe.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said she was "still minded" to refer the bid by Murdoch-controlled 21st Century Fox to the Competition and Markets Authority for further scrutiny.

Ms Bradley said she had not had time to consider all the arguments.

She said her decision was likely to come in the coming weeks.

Mr Murdoch already owns 39% of the satellite broadcaster and back in December, 21st Century Fox offered £11.7bn for the rest of the company.

In a statement to Parliament, Ms Bradley said: "There has not been time to consider all the representations and I am not in a position today to make my final decision on referral."

She told MPs she still had concerns about the amount of control the deal would give Mr Murdoch over the UK media industry.

"Having carefully reviewed the party's representations, and in the absence of further proposed undertakings, I am still minded to refer on the media plurality grounds, and still minded not to accept the undertakings in lieu of a referral."

Ms Bradley has already indicated that she did not object to the deal on the grounds of broadcasting standards.

MPs, including former Labour leader Ed Miliband and Vince Cable of the Liberal Democrats, have argued that broadcasting standards should be taken into account, given a recent sexual harassment scandal at Fox News in the US.

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Sky has 22 million customers in Europe

Last month Ofcom, which regulates the media industry, released the results of its report into the deal.

It concluded that if Sky was owned by Fox it would still be a "fit and proper" holder of broadcast licences.

However, it identified a "risk of increased influence by members of the Murdoch Family Trust over the UK news agenda and the political process, with its unique presence on radio, television, in print and online".

Fox proposed measures that it argued would maintain the editorial independence of Sky News, and Ofcom said those measures would "mitigate" the public interest concerns.

Fox highlighted that point in a statement: "We are disappointed that the Secretary of State remains minded to refer on plurality," it said.

"We have proposed comprehensive undertakings to address the points raised by Ofcom."

Delay welcomed

In 2013 Mr Murdoch split his TV and film business from his newspapers, which include the Sun, the Times and the Wall Street Journal.

The Murdoch family still has controlling stakes in both News Corporation, which owns the newspapers, and 21st Century Fox which owns the other media businesses.

Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson welcomed the delay by Ms Bradley: "It is not her job to operate to 21st Century Fox's corporate timetable - they have to abide by the parliamentary timetable.

"And she should demonstrate to them that she, as an elected representative of the people, is in charge, not them."

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