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UK regulator says Fox's Sky takeover 'not in public interest'

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London (AFP)

Britain's competition regulator provisionally ruled Tuesday that a takeover of satellite TV giant Sky by Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox entertainment group was "not in the public interest".

The government had referred the matter to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for an in-depth probe last September owing to concerns about media plurality and broadcasting standards.

"The CMA has provisionally found that Fox taking full control of Sky is not in the public interest due to media plurality concerns, but not because of a lack of a genuine commitment to meeting broadcasting standards in the UK," the regulator said in a statement that also proposed possible remedies.

"The media plurality concerns identified mean that, overall, the CMA provisionally concludes that the proposed transaction is not in the public interest."

Back in 2016, 21st Century Fox bid £11.4 billion ($15.1 billion, 12.7 billion euros) for the 61-percent of Sky it does not already own.

The takeover has already been approved by regulators in Austria, Germany, Ireland and Italy as well as the European Union. However it had not yet been given the nod in Britain, where concerns linger over the influence of Australian-born US tycoon Murdoch.

The CMA watchdog added Tuesday that the deal would hand Murdoch "too much control" over UK news providers -- and therefore too much power in swaying public opinion.

"The CMA has provisionally found that if the deal went ahead, as currently proposed, it is likely to operate against the public interest," it added.

"It would lead to the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT), which controls Fox and News Corporation (News Corp), increasing its control over Sky, so that it would have too much control over news providers in the UK across all media platforms, and therefore too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda."

In response, Sky noted the findings in a brief statement and said it would seek submissions on possible remedies for the regulator's concerns.

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