21st Century Fox urges U.K. to speed up approval process for Sky buy


21st Century Fox is asking U.K. regulators to pick up the pace on the approval process for its Sky acquisition.

Late last year, Fox announced plans to acquire the approximately 60% of pay-TV provider Sky that it doesn’t already own, in a deal that would value Sky at about $23 billion.

This week, Karen Bradley, U.K. secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, issued a statement saying she needed more time to fully review all relevant representations regarding the deal. Bradley said she was "minded to" refer the deal to the CMA on grounds of maintaining a diversity of viewpoints across the media landscape.

“Unless new evidence from other representations changes my mind in the coming weeks the bid will therefore be referred to a Phase 2 review on at least one ground—media plurality,” Bradley said.

21st Century Fox said that it has proposed “comprehensive undertakings” to address the plurality concerns raised by the U.K. Office of Communications (Ofcom).

“We were pleased Ofcom concluded that these undertakings to maintain the editorial independence of Sky News would mitigate any concerns around media plurality. Consequently, we are disappointed that the Secretary of State remains minded to refer on plurality,” said 21st Century Fox in a statement.

“We respect the importance of regulatory scrutiny, and we continue in our commitment to work constructively with authorities as we have done since this process began. In light of the transaction’s benefits to the UK creative economy, we would urge the Secretary of State to complete the regulatory process expeditiously.”

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In March, Bradley announced she had issued a European intervention notice regarding the deal.

“The first public interest ground on which I am minded to intervene is media plurality. That is, specifically, the need for there to be a sufficient plurality of persons with control of the media enterprises serving audiences in the U.K.,” said Bradley in a statement at the time. “The second public interest ground on which I am minded to intervene is commitment to broadcasting standards. This ground relates to the need for persons carrying on media enterprises, and for those with control of such enterprises, to have a genuine commitment to attaining broadcasting standards objectives.”

Since then, Ofcom has confirmed that the proposed transaction creates “no broadcasting standards concerns which may justify a reference by the Secretary of State to the Competition and Markets Authority.”