Skip To Content

    Disney's Expected Takeover Of Fox Makes It Less Likely Rupert Murdoch Will Get His Hands On Sky

    A source said Sky News management briefed London staff about the Disney rumours and regulatory delays yesterday, saying it is now an "awkward" time for the news channel.

    Drew Angerer / Getty Images

    Veteran media analysts think Disney's expected arrival to buy huge parts of the Fox media empire may help remove one of the biggest barriers from the full takeover of Sky; namely, Rupert Murdoch.

    Reports suggest Disney will announce a $60 billion takeover of Fox's studios as early as tomorrow, with the American company expected to gobble up the satellite company Sky and its 24 hours network Sky News as part of the deal.

    For many years now, Rupert Murdoch's Fox has been trying to buy the remaining parts of the Sky satellite business, and both British Conservative and Labour politicians who've fallen afoul of the media mogul have left no stone unturned trying to stop him.

    But analysts told BuzzFeed News that if Disney bought Fox, it would change the equation for the political opposition, because Murdoch's "family trust" would no longer be in the box seat to control both Sky News and News Corp's newspapers the Sun and the Times.

    Media analyst Alice Enders said: "It's severing the critical link between News Corp, the Murdoch family trust, Fox and Sky. The combination of what people were talking about where News Corp is the de facto owner of Sky News, that combination would fall to the wayside.

    "It'll be much harder to oppose."

    Rupert Murdoch's bid for the remaining parts of Sky has become one of the more long-running and controversial media deals over the last decade, with the billionaire's first attempt brought undone by the phone-hacking scandal in 2011.

    The UK government under Theresa May has referred Murdoch's most recent effort to the Competition Markets Authority. The regulator has pushed back a final decision until next year.

    Mathew Horsman, a media consultant and the author of Sky High: The Rise and Rise of BSkyB, said one of the biggest issues with the deal according to regulators, politicians, and some parts of the public was the idea of Murdoch having too much influence in the British media.

    "It was always the Murdoch-element and the issue of the Murdoch family trust having controlling influence over the newspapers," Horsman told BuzzFeed News.

    "That wouldn't be an issue with Disney."

    Lately, regulatory delays and mounting opposition clouded the fate of the Fox-Sky deal, which the company has argued is necessary for the future of Sky News. In a recent submission to the regulator, Sky had threatened to close down the influential 24-hour news channel if the company's buyout wasn't green-lit.

    John Phillips / Getty Images

    Sky News chief Jeremy Darroch held a midday meeting on Tuesday, telling nervous staff in the London newsroom it was an "awkward time" for the channel, according to a source who attended.

    Darroch told those gathered that Sky expected Disney to follow through with Fox's bid to buyout the rest of the company, whatever happens as a result of the CMA inquiry.

    A spokesperson later said Darroch was expecting the initial findings from the CMA in mid-January.

    A source said Darroch also informed staff that Sky was committed to finding a way to get the deal done, whether it was on behalf of Fox or within Disney.

    Former Labour leader Ed Miliband has joined Conservative MP Ken Clarke and Liberal Democrat Vince Cable to become the most vocal opponents against Murdoch's latest bid for the remaining parts of Sky.

    Along with liberal campaign groups Media Matters and Avaaz, the politicians have submitted hundreds of pages to the inquiry, arguing a Murdoch-owned Sky News would be turned into a UK-version of Fox News.

    "Let's say they don't get to buy Sky, then I think the next step is the closure of Sky News," Horsman said, addressing the issue of the persistent political opposition to the deal. "Is that what Vince and Ed want?

    "Is Sky going to oblige Sky News to lose millions of pounds a year, for the purposes of keeping a couple of politicians happy? I don't think so."

    The opposition has also pointed regulators to Fox News' recent sexual harassment scandals and so-called fake news issues at the US network, claiming it should disqualify the Murdochs from taking over Sky News.

    "Remember with Disney, the Fox News channel would now also be out of the deal," Enders said. "The key question for the opponents will be, what is the role of the Murdochs in the Disney-Fox deal?

    "Nobody has a problem with Fox as a company, they have a problem with it being a company being run by the Murdochs."

    Both analysts stressed that Disney's takeover of Fox would also be subject to harsh regulatory scrutiny in the US and Europe, meaning the saga is expected to run deep into next year.

    Miliband's office would not comment about the prospect of Disney's takeover, nor whether he'd continue to oppose the Fox-Sky deal with the Murdochs out of the picture.

    Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

    Contact Mark Di Stefano at mark.distefano@buzzfeed.com.

    Got a confidential tip? Submit it here