European Commission Raids Fox London Office over ‘Cartel’ Concerns

News Corp founder Rupert Murdoch, seen here in 2017, is urging Facebook to pay "trusted" news organizations for content, in the same way cable TV operators pay for channels

The European Commission raided the London offices of media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox as part of an investigation into a possible “cartel” involving sports broadcasting rights.

The raid involved the seizure of computers and documents at the media company’s Hammersmith, London, offices during an “unannounced inspection” on Tuesday evening.

The European Commission confirmed that it had carried out inspections in several other European Union member states at companies that distribute “media rights and related rights pertaining to various sports events and/or their broadcasting”.

But the EU’s executive arm explained that this raid was sparked by concerns that Fox may have violated EU antitrust rules prohibiting cartels.

“The Commission has concerns that the companies involved may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices,” a spokesman explained, according to Reuters.

“Unannounced inspections are a preliminary step into suspected anticompetitive practices. (It) … does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself,” he added.

The Commission did not disclose the name of other media companies it claims to have raided, but Murdoch’s Fox Networks Group (FNG), an operating unit of 21st Century Fox which distributes television channels, confirmed its involvement and that it was “cooperating fully with the EC inspection”.

The European Commission cleared 21st Century Fox’s proposed acquisition of Sky under EU merger rules in April 2017. But the takeover is being resisted from UK watchdogs, with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) saying in January 2018 that the takeover would not be “in the public interest”.

“It is very important that no group or individual should have too much control of our news media or too much power to affect the political agenda,” said Anne Lambert, Chairman of the CMA’s independent investigation group following the ruling.

“We have provisionally found that if the Fox/Sky merger went ahead as proposed, it would be against the public interest. It would result in the Murdoch family having too much control over news providers in the UK, and too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda,” Lambert added.

Murdoch’s company already owns 39 per cent of Sky and tabled their £11.7 billion bid for full control in 2016. Rival media company Comcast launched a £22.1 billion takeover bid for Sky in February.

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