Ofcom has a duty to be satisfied that broadcast licensees are fit and proper on an ongoing basis. We have already stated that we consider it appropriate to examine any implications of a change of control over Sky for its holding of broadcast licences.
In light of requests for clarity on when such an assessment may occur, Ofcom can confirm that this would be carried out in the same timeframe as any public interest test - if asked to conduct one by the Secretary of State. We will set out our approach to this fit and proper assessment once it is clear whether or not we will be asked to conduct a public interest assessment.
Ofcom’s ongoing duty under the Communications Act to assess whether a licensee is fit and proper is a separate legal process to any public interest assessment that Ofcom may be asked to make by the Secretary of State. However, the issues we may be required to consider in any public interest assessment may overlap with our own consideration of Sky’s fitness to hold broadcasting licences in the event of a change of control.
1. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport announced on 3 March that she is minded to intervene in the proposed merger of Sky with 21st Century Fox on two public interest grounds: media plurality (that there is a sufficient plurality of persons with control of the media enterprises serving audiences in the UK) and commitment to broadcasting standards (the need for media enterprises and their controllers to have a genuine commitment to the attainment of the broadcast standards objectives).
2. In the event that the Secretary of State does decide to intervene on one or both of these grounds, then Ofcom would be required to assess and report to the Secretary of State on them. The Secretary of State has indicated that she will make her decision on whether to do so by 17 March.