Fox ready for Sky bid if it sells Sky News

Britain has cleared Rupert Murdoch's bid to buy Sky so long as Sky News is sold, paving the way for the mogul's 21st Century Fox to go head-to-head with rival Comcast for the European pay-TV group.

Addressing Comcast's bid for Sky, Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said he would not intervene in the bid.

Hancock said he had considered the Comcast and Sky bids separately. On Comcast he affirmed an earlier decision not to intervene and concluded the proposed merger does not pose public interest concerns.

The announcement was a relief for Fox, whose $15 billion takeover bid was lodged in 2016 but has been set back by delays and extensive review in Britain, even after having been approved in all other jurisdictions where Sky operates. And it spares Comcast the kind of official scrutiny that Fox, its leadership and its bid have had to undergo.

Fox already owns 39 per cent of Sky. Its attempt to buy the remaining 61 per cent was approved by European authorities but stalled in the UK in the face of fierce opposition from campaigners and politicians. The antitrust Competition and Markets Authority said earlier this year that the Fox deal would concentrate too much media power in the hands of the Murdoch family and was not in the public interest.

Media regulator Ofcom expressed similar concerns, but said separately there were not concerns over the Murdochs as fit and proper owners.