We are writing in connection with preliminary research conducted by the Media Reform Coalition on the likely impact of the proposed Fox-Sky merger on UK news plurality. We consider the analysis rigorous and that the data presented raises serious concerns about the risk the merger poses to plurality in a rapidly evolving news landscape. In particular, the merger will clearly result in a significant extension of Rupert Murdoch’s already substantial control over wholesale news provision via his newspaper titles and websites. We also note that the available data probably underestimates the reach of Sky news online via third party websites, and the wider agenda influence of News UK titles.

The report shows that the ownership landscape in which both Sky and News UK operate remains largely unchanged since 2011, when Mr Murdoch made an initial attempt to buy out the remaining shares in Sky plc. But there appears to have been a marked decline since then in the number of wholesale news sources that most consumers rely on. This suggests that, while the overall picture of plurality is relatively stable on the aggregate level, it is worsening at the level of individual exposure, a condition that further increases the risk posed to plurality by the proposed deal.

A decision was taken in 2011 by the then secretary of state to refer the deal to Ofcom under the public interest test framework, and Ofcom in turn raised substantive concerns about the merger following its review. If the logic of those decisions is accepted, then it is clear from this report that at least the same level of intervention is warranted now.
Dr Justin Schlosberg
Birkbeck, University of London
Professor Annabelle Sreberny
Professor James Curran
Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr Martin Moore
Kings College London
Professor Justin Lewis
Cardiff University
Professor Jean Seaton
University of Westminster
Dr Stephen Cushion
Cardiff University
Professor Greg Philo
University of Glasgow
Professor Des Freedman
Goldsmiths, University of London
Professor David Miller
University of Bath
Professor David Hesmondhalgh
University of Leeds
Dr Mike Berry
Cardiff University
Professor Angela Phillips
Goldsmiths, University of London
Professor Julian Petley
Brunel University
Professor Beverley Skeggs
Goldsmiths, University of London
Professor Natalie Fenton
Goldsmiths, University of London
Professor Stuart Allen
Cardiff University
Dr Einar Thorsen
University of Bournemouth