Posted on 31/May/2017
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Four MEPs write in an open letter why they believe the merger between 21st Century Fox and Sky might be a danger for Europe as a whole.

Though recently cleared by the EU antitrust regulator, the controversial merger between media giant 21st Century Fox and Sky keeps raising eyebrows also in Brussels. Now it is the turn of 4 prominent MEPs of the Socialist group (Brando Benifei, Neena Gill, Catherine Stihler, Julie Ward).

In a letter addressed to Karen Bradley, UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and Matthew Hancock , UK Minister of State for Digital and Culture, they warn that the merger “sparks serious questions about news plurality in the United Kingdom”.

Worse: the letter points out a wider danger at European level. “The merger poses similar questions [of plurality] regarding the broadcasting of sport in Europe, taking into account Sky’s position of dominance,” write the four MEPs.

They quote a report of the Media Reform Coalition which notes that the transaction would “result in the merged entity being the only news and media provider present on all four media platforms at the wholesale level, with a significant presence across them. In particular, the merged entity will effectively become: the largest newspaper provider; the third largest TV news provider; the second largest provider of radio news content; the fourth largest online news provider.”

The letter spells a clear message. Such a huge concentration of power in news media is as much a European as a British problem. Not only given Mr Murdoch operations in other EU countries (Sky offers television, broadband and telephone services to nearly 22 million customers in Austria, Britain, Germany, Ireland and Italy). The point is that if the merger is allowed without enough safeguards, it might sooner or later inspire similar endeavours in other countries of the EU.

A number of EU member states are already taking a worrying path when it comes to media pluralism (take Hungary). The European Union’s commitment to respect freedom and pluralism of the media is firmly enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and has been stressed in Council conclusions. Europe should watch carefully any move that might jeopardise such principle.

 

Picture Credits: Thomas Van Selus
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