Comcast's Sky bid raises fewer concerns than rival Fox offer, U.K. media regulatory chief says

Comcast Center headquarters in Philadelphia. Image: Comcast
A top U.K. regulatory official said Comcast's $31 billion bid for Sky raises fewer concerns than the rival takeover bid put forward by 21st Century Fox. (Comcast)

A key U.K. government official has explicitly said on record that Comcast has a lower regulatory bar to clear than rival Fox when it comes to purchasing satellite company Sky. 

According to Variety, Matt Hancock, Britain’s government secretary for media, said Comcast’s $31 billion bid for Sky doesn’t “raise concerns in relation to public-interest considerations which would meet the threshold for intervention.”

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Hancock added, “This is a quasi-judicial decision, and I am required to make my decision independently, following a process that is scrupulously fair and impartial, and as quickly as possible.”

The lower bid tenured by 21st Century Fox is significantly more bogged down, with U.K. regulators concerned that the company and its controlling family, the Murdochs, control too much of the country’s media. There is concern over the impact on 24-hour channel Sky News, given the reputation of the Murdochs, derived through a phone hacking scandal seven years ago, as well as the questionable "fair and balanced" coverage of Fox News in the U.S.

Hancock has issued an intervention for the bid provided by Fox, which is seeking to purchase the 61% of Sky that it doesn’t already own. 

Earlier this month, James Murdoch, who currently serves as chairman of the board for Sky Plc, called for a tough regulatory scrutiny of Comcast. 

“We think it’s very reasonable for Comcast to undergo a robust regulatory review which could take months,” Murdoch said. “The Comcast review would be appropriate given the important role Sky and Sky News play in the U.K. media market.”