Fox's Sky Deal: Legal Challenge to U.K. "Fit and Proper" Decision Can Go Ahead
"We will defend our ‘fit and proper’ assessment, which was independent, expert and based on the evidence," says U.K. media regulator Ofcom.
A British court on Wednesday ruled that an activist group that has opposed 21st Century Fox’s deal for European pay TV giant Sky can go ahead with a legal challenge of British media regulator Ofcom's conclusion that the company would remain a "fit and proper" broadcast license holder if the deal goes through.
The group, Avaaz, had in late September filed papers to seek a judicial review, arguing that Ofcom “made mistake after mistake in deciding to give the Murdochs [that control Fox] a clean bill of health to take over more of our media" in a report submitted to the British government in June.
"Repeated, large-scale scandals in the Murdoch empire indicate that something is very rotten at the core of their businesses," said Avaaz campaign director Alex Wilks at the time. "Ofcom didn’t dig deep enough before declaring the Murdochs fit to own even more of our media."
Britain's High Court has now approved the legal challenge by Avaaz against Ofcom, saying it should be heard before the end of June.
"If the Murdoch empire is fit and proper to hold broadcasting licenses after massive hacking, harassment and hush money, then virtually anyone is," said Avaaz CEO Ricken Patel. "Ofcom has put licensing standards in the gutter with this decision."
Said an Ofcom representative: "We will defend our ‘fit and proper’ assessment, which was independent, expert and based on the evidence." Ofcom has an ongoing obligation to review whether companies are "fit and proper" license holders.
Fox and Sky didn't comment.