By Diane Cooke
The European commission, which has been investigating 21st Century Fox’s takeover bid since early March, has given the deal “unconditional approval”.
“Based on the results of its market investigation, the Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns,” it said. “Fox and Sky are mainly active in different markets in Austria, Germany, Ireland, Italy and the UK. They compete with each other only to a limited extent, mainly in the acquisition of TV content and in the wholesale supply of basic pay-TV channels.”
Rivals have lodged submissions with the regulator, raising concerns that the combined broadcasters would dominate bidding for top-flight sport, TV shows and movies.
The ruling – which was expected given the commission also cleared Murdoch’s ill-fated 2010 bid – does not affect the investigation being conducted by Ofcom in the UK.
The UK media regulator is currently assessing whether the takeover will give Murdoch too much control of news media in the UK, and whether he is a “fit and proper” owner of Sky.
Regulators investigating the bid have heard the claims of alleged sexual harassment by Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who has since been fired, amid pressure to derail the multi-billion pound deal.
Lawyer Lisa Bloom travelled to London with Dr Wendy Walsh to appear before communications watchdog Ofcom as it considers Murdoch-owned 21st Century Fox’s £11.7bn offer for the satellite company.
Walsh told The New York Times last month that after she rebuffed O’Reilly’s advances he did not follow through on an offer to make her a regular contributor to his popular evening show.
For nearly two decades, Bill O’Reilly has been Fox News’s top asset, building the No. 1 program in cable news for a network that has pulled in billions of dollars in revenues for its parent company, 21st Century Fox.
Behind the scenes, the company has repeatedly stood by Mr. O’Reilly as he faced a series of allegations of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior.
An investigation by The New York Times found a total of five women who had received payouts from either Mr. O’Reilly or the company in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their accusations against him. The agreements totalled about $13 million.
Two settlements came after the network’s former chairman, Roger Ailes, was dismissed last summer in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal, when the company said it did not tolerate behaviour that “disrespects women or contributes to an uncomfortable work environment.”
“This was a hit,” O’Reilly told The Blaze radio programme. “In the weeks to come, we’re gonna be able to explain some of it.”
However, he failed to provide further details, but hinted at taking legal action against his enemies down the road.
Dozens of advertisers pulled out of “The O’Reilly Factor” amid the growing scandal.