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Invitation to comment for public interest test on the proposed acquisition of Sky plc by Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc.

On 3 March 2017 Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc. made a formal notification to the European Commission of its intention to acquire the shares in Sky plc it does not already own.

Public Interest Test

On 16 March 2017 the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport issued a European intervention notice requesting Ofcom to report by 16 May 2017 on the effects of the proposed transaction on:

“the need, in relation to every different audience in the United Kingdom or in a particular area or locality of the United Kingdom, for there to be a sufficient plurality of persons with control of the media enterprises serving that audience”; (the “plurality public interest consideration”) and

“the need for persons carrying on media enterprises, and for those with control of such enterprises, to have a genuine commitment to the attainment in relation to broadcasting of the standards objectives set out in section 319 of the Communications Act 2003”; (the “broadcast standards public interest consideration”).

Ofcom has today published a guidance note setting out the process and timetable for preparing our report on the public interest considerations set out by the Secretary of State. Ofcom has also published an invitation to comment and invites written submissions to be sent to Publicinteresttest@ofcom.org.ukby 30 March 2017.

Ofcom’s fit and proper duty

Under s.3(3) of each of the Broadcasting Act 1990 and the Broadcasting Act 1996, Ofcom has an ongoing duty to be satisfied that the holders of broadcast licences are fit and proper to be licensed. This means that we can assess a licensee at any time, on our own initiative, as well as being able to respond to concerns raised by third parties.  We have powers to require from licensees any information that we consider appropriate to conduct that assessment.

The public interest assessment that Ofcom has been asked to make by the Secretary of State and our ongoing duty under the Communications Act to assess whether a licensee is fit and proper are separate legal processes. However, the issues we have been required to consider in the public interest assessment may overlap with our own consideration of Sky’s fitness to hold broadcasting licences in the event of a change of control. We propose consider these matters within the same timeframe within which Ofcom will report to the Secretary of State on the public interest assessment.

If you wish to submit relevant evidence to us in relation to this assessment, please do so by 30 March 2017 using this email address: fitandproper@ofcom.org.uk

Next steps and key dates

  • 30 March 2017: deadline for submissions to the invitation to comment
  • 30 March 2017: deadline for submissions to us in relation to fitness and propriety
  • By 16 May 2017: Ofcom submits its report (including its recommendation and a summary of stakeholders’ submissions) and any other relevant material to the Secretary of State.
  • By 16 May 2017: Ofcom intends to complete its assessment of fitness and propriety in the event that the merger takes place.
Channel website: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/

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