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British regulators are engaging in a “political assault” on 21st Century Fox over its desire to purchase the 61 percent of Sky it does not already own, the group general counsel of the Rupert Murdoch-controlled company charged on Monday.
“Businesses coming to the U.K. expect objective treatment by the government. That expectation helps make the country one of the most attractive places in the world for commerce,” Gerson Zweifach wrote in an opinion published in the Financial Times.
“The sustained effort by some to politicize the Sky review should raise concerns not only for those who want to invest in the U.K. but, more fundamentally, for all who cherish the rule of law,” the attorney wrote.
Fox, which already owns 39 percent of the satellite TV service boasting 23 million subscribers in Europe, has been trying for 17 months to buy the rest of it for $15 billion, though activists and some regulators have cited a sex scandal at Fox News and even the network’s political bent as reasons for delaying permission.
Regulators also complain that, since Murdoch owns newspapers in the U.K., controlling all of Sky would give him and Fox, in conjunction with News Corp, a publishing company he also controls, too much sway over European media.
“Despite our cooperation with competition authorities, their review of our bid has been under sustained political assault,” Zweifach wrote Monday in his opinion piece.
Unaddressed in his article, though, is the fact that lots has changed since Fox made its offer: Disney has agreed to buy much of Fox — including its stake in Sky — for $52.4 billion; and Comcast has offered $31 billion to purchase all of Sky.
“Our bid reflects Fox’s proud history of investing in British creative industries and our financial support of Sky over the 28 years since we founded it,” argues Zweifach.
The attorney also rails against “politicians with personal grudges” who are “seeking to enlist the regulators in a political war,” and he outlined two promises that Fox has made to safeguard the independence of Sky News: “One would place it under the control of a separate company, with an independent board exclusively responsible for both Sky News’ editorial content and its commercial strategy. Fox would guarantee its funding for 15 years. We have also offered undertakings that Fox and the Murdochs will not attempt to influence the editorial choices of the head of Sky News.”
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