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Sky places question over future of 500 news staff with threat to close channel as price of Murdoch take-over

By Dominic Ponsford

Sky has said that it could pull the plug on Sky News if fears over plurality of media ownership lead to the blocking of Rupert Murdoch’s take-over bid.

In a response to the Competition and Markets Authority Sky has offered a blunt solution to the concerns that have been raised over fears about the Murdoch family’s increased influence over UK news provision.

If the £11.7bn bid by 21st Century Fox to buy the 61 per cent of Sky it does not already own goes through, the Murdoch Family Trust would add Sky News to The Times, Sunday Times, The Sun and radio stations including Talksport.

Sky said in a statement: “The CMA should not in its assessment simply assume the ‘continued provision of Sky News’ and its current contribution to plurality, ‘absent the Transaction’.

“Sky would likely be prompted to review the position in the event that the continued provision of Sky News in its current form unduly impeded merger and/or other corporate opportunities available in relation to Sky’s broader business, such as the Transaction – in particular having regard to any views expressed by shareholders regarding the denial of such opportunities.”

Today’s announcement places a question mark over the future of 500 journalists and technical staff employed by Sky News.

It also flies in the face of the impression given to staff that Sky has been investing in Sky News for the long-term.

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Last year Sky moved much of its programming into a new ‘glass box’ studio which is suspended in the centre of the vast new Sky Central headquarters building in Osterley, west London.

Sky also had plans to move journalists into a new state-of-the-art studio at some point this year.

Last November Press Gazette asked Sky director of newsgathering Jonathan Levy about cost-cutting in 2016 which saw around 60 journalists and camera operators leave the broadcaster.

He said: “This is very much an investment. When you go down and see the new studio you see there’s big investment from Sky going into Sky News.

“There are choices that we make along the way as we put resources into different things but we are very lucky that Sky continues to invest in Sky News and at the moment continues to invest in a way that it’s never done in the past.”

On plans to move Sky News into a new building, he said: “The new newsroom will treat all platforms the same. Another part of it, in terms of the glass box and the studio at Sky Central, it’s about Sky News being very much part of Sky.

“There’s a big investment that’s going in from Sky, which is a real vindication of the journalism that we do, and the glass box at the centre of the new building is a reflection of that.”

 

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