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Walt Disney offers to buy Sky News to ease Murdoch’s worries

In a fresh takeover twist, the Walt Disney Company offered to buy Sky News on April 3. However, the offer is meant to help Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox buy full control of Sky News’s parent company, the broadcaster Sky, and not because the British news channel is core to Disney’s business.

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox has said it would sell off Sky News to Disney or ring-fence it to try to allay regulatory concerns over its proposed acquisition of Sky.

The moves are taken to ensure editorial independence for the prestigious 24-hour Sky News channel. Fox also offered to set up Sky News as a separate company with an independent board to ensure its journalistic integrity, according to its regulatory filing.

Britain’s competition regulator, known as the CMA, provisionally rejected Fox’s bid this year as “not in the public interest.”

Fox’s latest offer to regulators, including the Disney twist, suggests that Fox’s $16.5-billion acquisition of the London-based pay-TV company may be in deep trouble. Fox has tried for more than a year to secure approval for its purchase of Sky, which has 22 million subscribers in Britain, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy.

“We believe that the enhanced firewall remedies we proposed to safeguard the editorial independence of Sky News addressed comprehensively and constructively the CMA’s provisional concerns,” Fox said in a statement.

Fox is bolstering efforts to secure the Sky takeover after Comcast Corp. in February made a competing offer for the UK pay-TV company. Acquiring the 61% of Sky that Fox doesn’t own is part of Murdoch’s broader plan to sell Fox’s media businesses to Disney.

Last December, Disney offered $52.4 billion to buy most of Fox, including its Century City movie and television studio, FX cable channels, regional sports channels and Fox’s 39% stake in Sky.

“Sky believes that both of these remedy proposals comprehensively address any plurality concerns the C.M.A. may have, and would guarantee the long-term future of Sky News and its ongoing editorial independence,” Sky added in its statement.

The regulator is expected to offer its recommendation on Fox’s bid for Sky by May 1. A final decision on the transaction by Matt Hancock, Britain’s culture secretary, is expected by June 13 this year.



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