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David Puttnam

Statement from Lord Puttnam

Statement from Lord Puttnam

29 June, 2017


Re statement by Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on the proposed merger between 21st Century Fox and Sky – 29.06.2017

21st century fox logo white on black

I welcome the Secretary of State’s ‘minded-to’ decision to refer the proposed merger of 21st Century Fox and Sky for a fuller Phase 2 investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority on the grounds of media plurality.

I am surprised and very concerned, however, that the Secretary of State is minded-not-to-refer the merger to the CMA on the grounds of broadcasting standards.

Ofcom’s observations of ‘significant failings of the corporate culture’ at Fox News in its ‘fit and proper’ assessment are extremely troubling. As the Shadow Secretary of State remarked:

“If the executives who ran a company involved in systematic and widespread criminality, including phone hacking and police bribery, can pass the fit and proper test, it begs the question – is the test itself fit for purpose?”

As the Shadow Secretary of State’s remarks suggest, it is very possible that the regulatory regime itself is no longer ‘fit for purpose’;  that being the case, should this merger ‘slip through’, the nation will have to live with the effects of those failings for many years to come.

Finally, one question does not seem to have been addressed and that is the scale and nature of the commercial and political benefits that could accrue to the Murdoch family from access to Sky’s vast database of almost thirteen million households in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

This could represent unaccountable power of a very different order to that which has ever existed in the past.

I believe that rather than accepting any revised undertakings in lieu, the Secretary of State should now make a final decision to refer the proposed merger, both on the grounds of plurality and broadcasting standards, to the CMA on the basis that only a full, detailed investigation, with sufficient time for proper scrutiny, and a comprehensive understanding of the implications of the contemporary world of digital media, will do justice to the public interest.