Owning British satellite TV operator Sky Plc just got a lot more expensive.
The British government June 19 laid out additional requirements to the ongoing £15 billion equity stake sale of Sky to 21stCentury Fox, which is turn is being coveted by The Walt Disney Co. and Comcast in separate acquisition bids.
At issue is the financial and editorial independence of Sky News, one of the largest news channels in the United Kingdom.
Matt Hancock, U.K. Cultural Secretary, disclosed that Disney had agreed to operate and maintain an editorially independent Sky News branded news service for 15 years rather than 10 years. It also agreed to not sell Sky News for 15 years without the consent of the government.
Disney and Fox also agreed to increase annual Sky News funding by £100 million ($132 million) – which amounts to nearly $2 billion over the course of the agreement.
“In my view, these revised undertakings meet the criteria that I set out to the House on 5 June and will help to ensure that Sky News remains financially viable over the long term; is able to operate as a major UK-based news provider; and is able to take its editorial decisions independently, free from any potential outside influence,” Hancock said in a statement.
Public input on the proposed merger is open until July 4.
Members of Britain’s Parliament are calling for a ban of RT (formerly “Russia Today”) network and website in the United Kingdom following the suspected nerve gas attack of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury.
Current and former labor ministers Stephen Doughty and Chris Bryant called on Prime Minister Theresa May to take action against RT, which broadcasts in the United Kingdom under a license with the Office of Communications (Ofcom).
“Can we just stop ‘Russia Today’ just broadcasting its propaganda in this country?” asked Bryant.
Doughty urged May to expedite communication with other departments about banning broadcast of RT within government buildings.
“Why should we be watching their propaganda in this Parliament?” Doughty said.
RT, which called itself a pawn in the international incident, streamed a 2014 episode featuring Bryant on the network promoting his book on constitutional reform.
“Bryant is seemingly happy to appear on RT when it suits his interests,” said the network.
Meanwhile, Ofcom, in a statement, reiterated it has an “ongoing duty” to reaffirm that all broadcast licensees in the U.K. are “fit and proper” to hold a license.
“We have heard the Prime Minister’s statement in the House of Commons this afternoon and we await her further statement on Wednesday [March 14)]. We will then consider the implications for RT’s broadcast licenses,” said the agency.