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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

EU raid of Murdoch's London office 'not revenge' for Brexit

A European Commission official said the search of Rupert Murdoch's Fox offices on Tuesday was not related to The Sun's support for the Leave campaign

<p>Rupert Murdoch faces competition for Sky from Comcast.&nbsp;Jewel Samad / AFP</p>
Rupert Murdoch faces competition for Sky from Comcast. Jewel Samad / AFP

The European Commission has insisted its raid of Rupert Murdoch's Fox Network offices in London was "not revenge" for the support shown by his newspaper, The Sun, for Brexit.

The bloc’s Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova made the comments after inspectors carried out an unannounced search of the office of Fox Network Group, which operates 21st Century Fox’s global television network, citing competition concerns. The raid of the US media company’s office in Hammersmith, London, was one of several raids on media outlets by the trade bloc on Tuesday.

Mr Murdoch's flagship populist newspaper had urged its readers to vote Leave in the lead up to the 2016 EU Referendum.

Fox Networks Group said it was co-operating with the European Union as it conducted its search. “Fox Networks Group is co-operating fully with the EC inspection,” a Fox spokesman told AFP.

The European Commission said it carried out inspections in several EU countries of companies working in media rights related to sports events and their broadcasting.

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“The commission has concerns that the companies involved may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices,” the EU’s executive branch said in a statement.

“Unannounced inspections are a preliminary step into suspected anti-competitive practices,” the commission said, noting raids did not mean companies were guilty of breaking competition rules.

The EU did not detail which companies or countries were involved, or the precise nature of the investigation.

Inspectors are believed to have seized documents and computer records at the FNG office and are due to return on Wednesday and possibly Thursday, The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.

Mr Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox is currently grappling with the UK’s competition authority over plans to buy the 61 per cent of British pay TV giant Sky that it does not already own.

Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority regulator provisionally ruled earlier this year that Mr Murdoch’s planned takeover was not in the public interest, and that a deal would hand him too much power in swaying public opinion.

Fox has responded by proposing the sale of TV channel Sky News to Disney, while also offering to ring-fence the 24-hour news channel instead.