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UK asks regulator to probe standards doubts over Fox-Sky bid

LONDON (AP) — The British government confirmed Thursday it is asking the country's competition regulator to investigate Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.'s bid for satellite broadcaster Sky because of concerns about broadcasting standards.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley announced her decision two days after she told lawmakers she was "minded" to make the referral to the Competition and Markets Authority. Bradley said that since then Sky and Fox had indicated they disagreed with the decision but "would not be making substantive representations" against it.

Bradley has previously said she will also ask the regulator to examine whether the deal would concentrate too much power in the hands of Rupert Murdoch's media empire. Murdoch owns British newspapers including the Sun and The Times of London, and his media group is trying to buy the 61 percent of Sky it doesn't already own. The takeover values Sky, which broadcasts Premier League soccer and top film and television offerings in Britain and other European markets, at 18.5 billion pounds ($25 billion).

An earlier attempt to buy the remaining shares was scuttled by the 2011 phone-hacking scandal that rocked Murdoch's British newspaper arm, News International, and led him to close the 168-year-old News of the World.

Opponents say the tabloid wrongdoing, and allegations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment at his U.S. TV network Fox News, show that Murdoch does not meet the requirement that U.K. media owners be "fit and proper" people.

Once Bradley makes the formal referral in the next few days, the regulator will have 24 weeks to investigate. Bradley will make the final decision on whether to approve the deal. The opposition Labour Party's culture and media spokesman, Tom Watson, called on the regulator to conduct a comprehensive investigation "that looks at all relevant evidence, including historic corporate governance failures at News International and more recent failures at Fox in America."