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UK govt 'minded to' fully probe UAE-backed Telegraph takeover

By AFP

March 19, 2024 07:03 PM


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UK Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said Tuesday she is "minded to" refer the contentious Abu Dhabi-led takeover of the Telegraph Media Group for an in-depth investigation over free speech concerns.

Frazer said media regulator Ofcom has raised concerns the United Arab Emirates-linked group involved "may have the incentive to influence Telegraph Media Group in a way that could potentially act against the public interest".

She added the proposed buyers of the Daily Telegraph newspaper and Spectator magazine will need to address those concerns by next Monday morning or face a more thorough probe by regulators.

The comments come less than a week after the UK government announced it plans to bar overseas governments from owning British newspapers, which could scupper the controversial takeover and need for the in-depth investigation.

That could come in the form of an amendment this week to the scheduled third and final reading of the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, meaning such a ban would come into force soon.

It follows pressure over the proposed takeover by a joint venture 75 percent owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, vice-president and deputy prime minister of the UAE.

RedBird IMI, a joint venture between US firm RedBird Capital and Abu Dhabi's International Media Investments, struck a £1.2 billion ($1.5 billion) deal with TMG's owners, the Barclay family, in November.

The agreement saw RedBird IMI pay off bank debts in exchange for control of the media group.

The announcement sparked an uproar in British media circles and the UK government quickly opened a formal probe into the sale on public-interest grounds.

The takeover plans have also raised concerns among some lawmakers in the ruling Conservative party, which has long enjoyed a close ideological relationship with the right-leaning Telegraph titles.

The Spectator -- once edited by former Tory prime minister and Brexit figurehead Boris Johnson -- is widely considered the "Tory bible".

The takeover plans have also led to consternation among Telegraph staff, who have repeatedly spoken out against it, and press freedom activists who denounce the UAE's record on press censorship.


AFP


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