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Comcast stands by pledge to maintain funding for Sky News over ten years and create new editorial board with safeguards for independence

By Freddy Mayhew

Comcast has said it stands by its earlier commitments to Sky News after winning out over Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox in a bidding war to buy all of Sky on the weekend.

A spokesperson for the US network, which owns NBC and Universal Studios, has told Press Gazette it will adhere to the statements set out in its offer for Sky made in April this year when it valued the British broadcaster at £22bn.

Its winning bid for Sky at a blind auction against Fox on Saturday, overseen by the UK Takeover Panel, valued the company at £30bn. Had Fox won the bid, Sky News would have been sold to Walt Disney.

Comcast has said it “recognises the important role that Sky News plays in the media landscape in the UK and understands that the future success of Sky News will depend on continued investment”.

It has pledged to maintain annual expenditure for Sky News to at least the level incurred in the 2016/17 financial year for a period of ten years.

The US network has also said it will establish an editorial Sky News board with the responsibility to safeguard the editorial independence of Sky News for the ten-year period.

It has also said it is committed to preserving Sky’s UK headquarters in Osterley, west London, for five years. Sky News moved to its new “glass box” studio on the campus in late 2016.

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Outside of Sky, Comcast has pledged not to acquire “any majority interest in any newspapers in the UK” for five years.

The issue of media plurality was raised by Ofcom in its assessment of Fox’s bid and prompted the Government to demand Murdoch sell off Sky News if he were successful in buying the 61 per cent of Sky he didn’t already own.

As it stands, Comcast does not own any other media businesses in the UK.

A Comcast spokesperson told Press Gazette the network “intends to invest in Sky to ensure that it remains a great British business”.

Sky shareholders have been asked to tender their shares to Comcast by 11 October, with the buyout expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Sky’s turnover was £13.6bn for the 12 months to the end of June 2018. Its earnings (EBITDA) were at £2.5bn for the year.

Comcast’s share price fell sharply following the announcement it had won the bid for Sky amid concerns it had paid too high a price for the broadcaster.

On Friday it was trading at $37.9 per share, falling to $34.9 per share  on Monday, but it has begun climbing again – trading at $35.6 per share today.

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