News International takeover of the London Times as previous example for Sky takeover

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Dear Department for Culture, Media and Sport,

The takeover bid for Sky by News International has interesting resonances with its takeover of the Times and Sunday Times in 1981. If I remember correctly, there were promises made then - and some institutional structures - to attempt to ensure those newspapers remained independent. They didn't.

Please report:

1) Has this record been reviewed in consider the way forward on this takeover
2) What were the

a) Promises made
b) Structures put in place
c) Does the department have a view as to their effectiveness?

As it is a LONG time ago, my memory may be incorrect in believing that there were such claims, but I invite a check!

Yours faithfully,

John Davidson

FOI Mailbox, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

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no-reply@dcms.ecase.co.uk on behalf of Correspondence Team, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Dear Mr Davidson,

Thank you for your information request of 13 July 2017.

You asked: The takeover bid for Sky by News International has interesting
resonances with its takeover of the Times and Sunday Times in 1981. If I
remember correctly, there were promises made then - and some institutional
structures - to attempt to ensure those newspapers remained independent.
They didn't.

Please report:

* Has this record been reviewed in consider the way forward on this
takeover
* What were the
a) Promises made
b) Structures put in place
c) Does the department have a view as to their effectiveness?

I have dealt with questions 2a and 2b under the Freedom of Information Act
2000 (the Act). As questions 1 and 2c do not constitute a request for
recorded information, I have dealt with them as correspondence.

I can advise that the information you have requested in 2a and 2b is
exempt from disclosure under section 21 (information available by other
means) of the Act. This is because this information has been published on
the Hansard website at the following link:
http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commo...

With regard to questions 1 and 2c, I can advise as follows on the process
by which the Secretary of State has received and is reviewing information
relating to the proposed Sky/Fox Merger.

On Thursday 16 March in a statement to Parliament the Secretary of State,
the Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, confirmed that she was intervening in the
proposed merger between 21st Century Fox, Inc and Sky plc on the media
public interest grounds of plurality and commitment to broadcasting
standards. This began the process whereby Ofcom and the Competitions and
Markets Authority (CMA) prepared reports on the public interests specified
and jurisdictional issues, respectively.

Those reports were received on 20 June and on 29 June, and in a statement
to the House of Commons, the Secretary of State confirmed that she is
minded-to refer the proposed merger to a Phase 2 investigation on the
grounds of media plurality and minded-not-to refer on the grounds of
genuine commitment to broadcasting standards. She also confirmed that she
is minded-not-to accept a set of undertakings-in-lieu of referral offered
by the parties on 21 June.

The steps that would be followed for the next phase of the decision were
also laid out, namely that - as required by legislation - the parties to
the proposed merger would be allowed the opportunity to make
representations on the Secretary of State's position on media plurality.
In the interests of transparency and ensuring that all the evidence had
been considered, all interested parties - including the public and
Parliamentarians - were allowed to have their say particularly on the
question of commitment to broadcasting standards. The deadline for
supplying these was 14 July.

The House of Commons was told on 20 July, in an update on the proposed
merger ahead of the Parliamentary Summer Recess, that having carefully
reviewed the parties' representations, and in the absence of further
proposed undertakings, the Secretary of State is currently still minded-to
refer on the media plurality ground and still minded-not-to accept the
undertakings in lieu of a reference.

However, all relevant representations must be considered before a final
decision is reached. Time will be taken to look at the many that have been
received, balancing the need for careful consideration of relevant
evidence with the merger parties' legitimate need for a prompt decision.

As set out in previous statements to the House, the Secretary of State's
quasi-judicial responsibilities will be discharged as thoroughly, robustly
and transparently as possible and her decision will must also be taken as
promptly as is reasonably practicable.

I hope that this information is of assistance.

Yours sincerely,

Freedom of Information Team

Department for Culture, Media & Sport
4th floor, 100 Parliament Street
London SW1A 2BQ

www.gov.uk/dcms

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