21st Century Fox "Surprised" By CMA Referral Decision

Britain said it may widen its probe into the planned takeover of pan-EUropean satellite TV giant Sky by Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox

Culture secretary Karen Bradley is inclined to ask the Competition and Markets Authority to conduct a months-long investigation into Fox's commitment to broadcasting standards, in addition to the widely expected review over whether the deal would give the Murdochs too much influence over United Kingdom media, she said Tuesday in Parliament.

In a statement to members of British Parliament on Tuesday, Culture Minister Karen Bradley said that the country's communications regulator, Ofcom, found there are "non-fanciful concerns" about the company's commitment to British broadcasting standards.

Twenty-First Century Fox said it was disappointed in the decision, noting that United Kingdom broadcast regulator Ofcom had advised the government that the deal did not raise concerns about broadcast standards.

Anti-Murdoch campaigners had lobbied hard to stop the deal, with Labour MPs including Ed Miliband saying the Murdochs are not "fit and proper" owners of the broadcast group.

She also raised concerns about "corporate governance issues".

Politicians called for further scrutiny after reports in the USA emerged that Fox had colluded with the Trump administration on a story that contained fake quotes about murdered Democratic aide Seth Rich. Fox News had innacurately claimed that Rich was the source of hacked emails published by WikiLeaks and retracted the story.

The culture secretary said she had received 43,000 representations over the summer following her initial statement, few of which added substantial new evidence. However, I consider it important that entities which adopt controversial or partisan approaches to news and current affairs in other jurisdictions should, at the same time, have a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards here. "These are matters the CMA may wish to consider in the event of a referral".

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"Nevertheless we will continue to engage with the process as the secretary of state reaches her final decision", the company said. She was not confident that weaknesses in Fox's corporate governance arrangements were incapable of affecting compliance in the broadcasting standards context.

Bradley's decision remains "minded to" because she must allow the parties to make representations on the proposed decision.

Fox previously said it expects the Sky deal to close by June 30, 2018, later than the previous expectation for a close by the end of 2017.

Rupert Murdoch's bid to take full control of Sky could be disrupted or blocked completely after the government unexpectedly raised a series of concerns about how Fox News has been run in the USA and the potential "Foxification" of the United Kingdom broadcaster.

Fox returned with an agreed bid for Sky in December previous year.

- Sky shares were trading at around 9.36 pounds at 1500 BST, nearly 13 percent below the offer price.

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