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Sky News could be sold to Disney under new plan

A Sky logo is seen outside the Sky

A Sky logo is seen outside the Sky headquarters building in London on March 3, 2011. Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS/AP / Sang Tan

LONDON — Sky News could be sold to Walt Disney or completely ring-fenced in concessions put forward Tuesday by Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox as it seeks to bolster its chances of taking full control of the U.K. satellite broadcaster Sky.

The proposals are aimed at easing some of the regulatory concerns over the extent of Murdoch's influence on British media if his 21st Century Fox is cleared to buy the 61 percent of Sky it doesn't already own for $16.4 billion.

Fox said the proposals would protect Sky News' independence and that Disney has expressed an interest in buying Sky News "whether or not" its own separate proposed acquisition of 21st Century Fox proceeds — Disney is trying to take over many parts of Fox, notably its movie and television studios, as well as its U.S. sports network.

Fox said in a regulatory filing it has worked "diligently" with Britain's Competition and Markets Authority to come up with proposals that would "safeguard the editorial independence of Sky News" and address the agency's concerns.

Sky News has become a focal point for those concerned about the extent of Murdoch's influence in the media given his ownership of a wide array of newspapers, notably The Sun and The Times. For decades, Murdoch has been criticized by liberal politicians for having too much control over the U.K. media scene and using his influence to champion conservative causes.

Fox said the proposed changes "went above and beyond" what Ofcom, the independent media regulator in the U.K., had "stated would mitigate concerns around media plurality."

The agency is mulling whether to recommend the Fox deal for Sky to Culture Secretary Matt Hancock for approval. The competition watchdog has reached a preliminary finding that the takeover would give Murdoch excessive control over Britain's media.

U.S. broadcast Comcast is also trying to purchase Sky and has made a $31-billion bid for the company.

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