European pay TV giant Sky and its 39 percent owner 21st Century Fox have offered to sell the Sky News channel to Walt Disney if that would help address United Kingdom regulators' concerns about Sky News' independence from Fox.
Under the deal described by Fox, Disney would buy Sky News and add it to its existing channel portfolio.
One of these will see Disney making an offer to buy Sky News from Fox outright, thus potentially alleviating worries that the respected United Kingdom news channel may adopt a Fox News-style modus operandi post acquisition.
Fox, which now owns 39% of Sky, in December 2016 launched a bid to take full control of the British company. In a filing submitted to the Competition and Markets Authority published Tuesday, Fox said Disney could now buy Sky News.
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In a preliminary finding earlier this year, United Kingdom antitrust authorities said Fox's full ownership of Sky and its Sky News operations would give Fox Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch too much influence in British media. Indeed, popular British news outlets owned by the Murdoch family include newspapers the Sun, the Time and the Sunday Times. Comcast also recently offered to acquire Sky for $31 billion.
Sky reacted to the latest remedies offered and said that it believes that both these offers ultimately address particular plurality concerns the CMA may have and would promise the upcoming future of Sky News and its ongoing editorial independence.
Analysts Liberum Capital said the Fox remedies "should be adequate" to overcome the regulator's media plurality concerns.
Disney's move on Tuesday would untangle the process by, in effect, leaping over Fox to acquire Sky News directly.
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The agency is mulling whether to recommend the Fox deal for Sky to Culture Secretary Matt Hancock for approval. It agreed late previous year to buy the bulk of Fox's assets - including Murdoch's worldwide broadcasting operations, of which Sky is a part - for $52.4 billion.
The group, which has a broadband arm serving 29 million USA customers, owns NBC and Universal Pictures and wants to seize more than 50 per cent of Sky. It proposed itself that Sky News could be either spun off or divested. A surprise offer for Sky from Comcast, the U.S. cable group, at a premium to the Fox offer has further complicated the picture.
Critics of the deal have said that the independent board could still be influenced by the Murdoch family.
"They've now gone as far as to persuade Disney to buy a lossmaking business, because everyone knows Sky News doesn't make any money", he said.
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