Who owns Sky News? Start Here

Sky News

In its 32-year existence, Sky News has benefited massively from largely consistent ownership. Shortly after its formation in 1989, Sky News became a thorn in the side for established news channels such as the BBC and ITN. Sky News was the first UK channel to offer 24-hour news coverage, satisfying a need from the populace for an ever-present news channel. 

Sky News saw CNN’s success as a 24-hour news provider and recognized an opportunity to get ahead of more established competition. The network is a serial award winner and a trusted news source for millions of UK citizens.

Key Takeaways

  • Rupert Murdoch, the American owner of Fox News, founded Sky News in 1989.
  • Comcast assumed ownership of Sky News in 2018 following a £30 billion purchase.
  • John Ryley has served as head of Sky News for over 15 years.

Comcast acquired Sky News for £30 billion, ending Fox’s interest in the network

Comcast acquired Sky News

Comcast, a US-based media conglomerate, acquired Sky News for £30 billion in 2018. The deal ended Fox’s interest in the network. 

Fox had tried and failed to clear regulatory hurdles in its attempt to acquire Sky News. Ultimately, their two-year effort to acquire the news outlet failed following Comcast’s mega bid for the company. 

The sale to Comcast satisfied shareholders, including almost half of Sky staff. The company’s share investment scheme allowed staff to purchase company shares. Jeremy Darroch, the outlet’s chief executive, earned around 50 million pounds from the sale. 

“Nearly 30 years ago Rupert Murdoch took a risk to launch Sky and in the process changed the way we watch television forever,” Jeremy said after the sale’s announcement

“His vision and belief has enabled us to grow into Europe’s leading direct-to-consumer media business and I would like to personally thank him, James, and 21st Century Fox for their consistent support as shareholders, board members and friends,” Jeremy added. 

In its first three years, Sky News ran at a loss. Its founder, Rupert Murdoch, faced calls to close the station, but he declined, citing prestige and political reasons. It had the support of politicians and citizens, who saw Sky News as a reputable company and worthy competitor to established news channels. 

After it became profitable, the company never looked back. Rupert Murdoch started the company from scratch and turned it into the most-watched network in the UK. 

“We bet – and almost lost – the farm on launching a business that many didn’t think was such a good idea,” a statement from 21st Century Fox (owned by Rupert Murdoch) said. “Today, Sky is Europe’s leading entertainment company and a world-class example of a customer-driven enterprise.”

“For nearly 30 years we have invested to create a dynamic and exciting business that has produced excellent returns for shareholders and has become one of the most admired companies in Europe.”

Regulators feared that Rupert Murdoch would have too much influence on UK media

Rupert Murdoch would be Sky News‘ owner had regulators approved his attempt to take complete control of the company. 

Rupert Murdoch
Founder Rupert Rupert Murdoch, Photographed in his office in Melbourne (Photo by Fairfax Media/Getty Images)

The public feared that Murdoch’s ownership would affect the network’s impartiality. It would increase Rupert’s influence on UK media, given that he owns The Sun and The Times

A report by the Competition and Markets Authority on Rupert’s bid encapsulated British fears. The CMA found that the acquisition would give Murdoch ‘too much control over news providers in the UK across all media platforms and therefore too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda.’

Despite the CMA’s conclusion that the deal wouldn’t affect Sky News‘ broadcasting standards, the CMA found that such a deal threatened media plurality. Anne Lambert, the chair of the CMA’s independent investigation group, said:

“Media plurality goes to the heart of our democratic process. 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.”

Rupert Murdoch’s critics celebrated the CMA’s decision. “The Competition and Markets Authority is right to say that the Fox takeover of Sky would give the Murdoch family too much power,” politician Tom Watson said. 

People feared that under Murdoch’s control, Sky News would morph into something resembling Fox News, a right-wing, deeply conservative American news outlet owned by Murdoch. Comcast’s acquisition of Sky News put to rest those fears. 

Sky News has turned into the polar opposite of Fox News. It’s committed to environmental conservation, champions causes such as Black Lives Matter, and has taken steps to promote workplace diversity. It has led to accusations that Sky News is a ‘woke’ channel. 

John Ryley took over as head of Sky News after Nick Pollard stepped down in 2006

John Ryley
John Ryley, head of Sky News (Photo by Sky News)

John Ryley took over as head of Sky News following Nick Pollard’s resignation in 2006. 

Pollard served as head for ten years, consistently leading the network to the top spot among 24-hour news channels. Under Pollard’s leadership, Sky News won several Bafta and Royal Television Society awards for its reporting. 

However, in 2005, the BBC attracted more viewers than Sky News. The BBC’s viewership increased, and Sky News’ decreased. 

Sky News responded by revamping its studio, introducing new programming options, and hiring big-name presenters. However, its response failed to yield results, leading to Nick Pollard’s resignation. 

“Few people could claim to have done more than Nick Pollard to transform television news in this country,” then Sky News’ chief executive James Murdoch said. “I have the deepest respect for Nick and the contribution that he has made not only to Sky but to broadcast journalism as a whole.”

John Ryley took over from Nick Pollard and has held the position since then. 

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