February 21, 2018
THE FUTURE OF SKY NEWS
When it launched in 1989, Sky News was the UK’s first 24 hour TV news channel. It has since been awarded News Channel of the Year 10 times by the Royal Television Society, scooped three BAFTAs and now reaches approximately 5 million viewers each week via EPG and a similar amount on mobile devices.
It has recently been the subject of a £11.7bn bid from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox. The bid, which is to buy the 61% of Sky that it does not already own, has received the attention of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) who decided the proposed deal would be against the public interest because it would give the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT) “too much control over news providers in the UK”.
The CMA has outlined three possible outcomes, which would limit the editorial control the Murdoch family can exert over Sky News and pave the way for the deal to go ahead (regardless of the impending acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Disney):
1. Prevention of the Murdoch family gaining control over Sky News, which has the highest likelihood to lead to the loss making channel being closed
2. Sky News to be incorporated as a new PLC with a separate board
3. A behavioural remedy, where Fox / MFT would commit to not affecting the editorial independence of Sky News
Earlier this month, Rupert Murdoch offered a combination of options two and three, saying that no employee who is a beneficiary of the MFT “will attempt to influence the editorial choices made by Sky News”, as well as committing to establishing a fully independent, expert Sky News editorial board.
Last night, at a panel event arranged by The Media Society, hosted by Westminster University and expertly hosted by Stewart Purvis CBE, various broadcast dignitary discussed the situation and shared their thoughts on how it should and will play out.
Contributions ranged from Adam Boulton’s impassioned defence of the impartiality of Sky News, to Professor Steven Barnett’s concerns about 100% Murdoch owned media and David Elstein’s verbal evisceration of the CMA’s report. Punctuated by extremely useful contextual analysis from Alice Enders, Joe Mayes and Sam Taylor.
The one thing they all agreed upon was the importance of UK news plurality and were therefore generally enthused by Fox’s update yesterday to the CMA, which extended the duration of its commitment to maintain a Sky-branded news service from at least five years to at least 10, to get the deal done.
However, interestingly, the media consultant John O’Loan, who launched Sky News in back in 1989, predicted that the multiplicity of distribution devices and trend towards more online content means Sky News won’t actually have an EPG in the next 10 years.
Of course, with current broadcasting codes in place for television being far more stringent than online requirements (be sure to check out the new streaming channel “Fox Nation” which has just been announced to launch later this year to see what we mean), we also hope Sky News continues to maintain its EPG presence for at least the next decade, whilst also reaching new mobile first (and increasingly mobile only) audiences online.
Tom Milnes, Head of Newsroom at markettiers added “we’re all excited about the converging media landscape but with the increasing prevalence of AI leading to filter bubbles in the news we’re served online and via social media, I agree with the panel's assertion that Sky News television should be both championed and protected”