21st Century Fox announced Tuesday that it will pull Fox News from UK airwaves, The Guardian reports. The network’s final broadcast across the pond took place at 4:00 p.m. local time Tuesday.
A spokeswoman told The Guardian: “[Fox] has decided to cease providing a feed of Fox News Channel in the UK. Fox News is focused on the US market and designed for a US audience and, accordingly, it averages only a few thousand viewers across the day in the UK. We have concluded that it is not in our commercial interest to continue providing Fox News in the UK.”
21st Century Fox awaits British authorities’ approval of its bid to acquire Sky TV, the UK’s top pay television network. The US media giant already owns 39% of Sky and is seeking to acquire the remaining 61% in the £11.7 billion ($15.2 billion) deal.
Sources told The Guardian the decision to pull Fox News out of the UK was strictly economical and in no way related to the pending acquisition.
But, UK media regulators and lawmakers have raised concerns about the “corporate culture” of the network. According to CNN, the British Office of Communications (Ofcom), which was tasked with reviewing the proposed takeover, said following its review that the sexual harassment allegations against former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes and former anchor Bill O’Reilly, were “deeply disturbing,” and evinced “significant failings of the corporate culture.”
O’Reilly and Ailes both denied the allegations, CNN notes.
Ofcom found no evidence that senior management at Fox had been aware of the alleged misconduct prior to July 2016. CNN reports that 21st Century Fox management (namely, Rupert Murdoch and his sons Lachlan and James) “pressured Ailes to resign,” which he did in July 2016.
In April, Fox and O’Reilly parted ways. “After a thorough and careful review of the allegations,” 21st Century Fox said in a statement per foxnews.com, “the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel.”
Despite its concerns regarding the sexual harassment allegations, Ofcom concluded that 21st Century Fox qualified as a “fit and proper” holder of Sky. The regulatory agency did not deem further investigation of the network’s broadcasting practices necessary.
Still, British lawmakers and lobbyist groups are urging Karen Bradley, the UK’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, to refer the Fox-Sky deal for additional review. In response to those petitions, Bradley’s office asked Ofcom to conduct further research. Friday, the office confirmed that it has received “additional advice” from Ofcom concerning the deal, Deadline reports.
“The Secretary of State will now carefully consider that advice before making her decision on referral on the basis of all the evidence before her, and will do so as soon as is reasonably practicable,” the office says, per Deadline.
Bradley said late last month that while she saw no reason to further review 21 Century Fox’s adequateness as a broadcaster, she was likely to refer the deal for review by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
“Unless new evidence…changes my mind in coming weeks, the bid will therefore be referred for a Phase 2 review on at least one ground: media plurality,” Bradley told Parliament in mid-July, per Variety.
Deadline notes that CMA reviews can take up to six months. If the deal is not finalized by the end of this year, 21st Century Fox will pay Sky shareholders £170 million ($219 million).
Twenty-two million viewers across five European countries—the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany and Austria—pay for Sky service,
The European Union has already approved the acquisition. UK authorities represent the final regulative hurdle before finalization.
If the deal dissolves, Fox will pay Sky an additional £200 million ($258 million).
Featured Image via Flickr/Johnny Silvercloud