Forget The Headlines -- Murdoch Control Of Sky News Is Just Delayed

It depends which headline you read today what you will take out of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) report on 21st Century Fox's bid for full control of Sky News.

To be honest, I think the vast majority of Brits will shrug their shoulders and presume that the Murdochs already owned 100% of Sky News. As it is, they own 39% and are looking to acquire the remaining 69%. 

It raises an obvious question mark over media plurality, and so it is hardly surprising that the deal has been temporarily halted by the CMA. It isn't just a case of Fox News and Sky News being owned by the same company, but also both being under the same umbrella as the publisher of The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and The Sun on Sunday.

Some of the headlines, which of course are typically not written by the journalists behind the articles, seem to suggest this is more of a problem than it is. The Guardian at least says the block is "temporary," while the BBC just quotes that cgthe ruling is 'not in the public interest.'

However, the real story here is that the CMA has told the Murdochs the three steps they can take next. Calling it off comes first, but that is unlikely. Put stronger firewalls between Sky News and the rest of the organisation to prevent influence. This is possible, but the report does state that those remedies already included in the Murdoch submission were not enough. The third option would be to spin it out or sell it off.

This surely has to be the most obvious way forward -- a firewall so strong between Sky News and the Murdoch papers and Fox News that they are in different companies, even if they are ultimately Murdoch-owned?

It seems unlikely that the Murdochs would go through all this to buy Sky News in its entirety and then sell it off immediately. There's no way they're going to call the whole thing off. So some form of putting very clear water between the news station and the rest of the empire is surely the way forward.

The next move is Sky's. It has been given eight weeks to come back with remedies. If Sky News being spun out in some form isn't the preferred way forward, I would be very surprised.

Forget the headlines, this is happening -- it has just been delayed while the Murdochs figure out a structure that satisfies the regulator.

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