Rupert Murdoch is to stop broadcasting the rightwing US channel Fox News in the UK after 15 years.
His US media group 21st Century Fox announced it would withdraw Fox News from Sky in the UK on Tuesday saying that it no longer sees the service as commercially viable.
The decision comes as Karen Bradley, the culture secretary, is set to return her verdict on whether to ask the competition regulator to launch an investigation into the Murdochs’ adherence to broadcasting standards in the UK as part of a probe into Fox’s £11.7bn takeover bid of Sky.
Sources say the decision to stop broadcasting Fox News, which goes off air from Tuesday at 4pm, is not connected to the takeover bid, arguing that the channel attracts very few viewers in the UK, about 2,000 a day.
“[Fox] has decided to cease providing a feed of Fox News Channel in the UK,” said a spokeswoman for the company. “Fox News is focused on the US market and designed for a US audience and, accordingly, it averages only a few thousand viewers across the day in the UK. We have concluded that it is not in our commercial interest to continue providing Fox News in the UK.”
However, the channel has been put under the spotlight in the last year with Ofcom, the media regulator, making a number of rulings against Fox News broadcasts.
In the past decade Fox has notched up 22 breaches of its licence and Ofcom’s codes and rules. Of those, seven were against Fox News, with four last year including against a programme which featured a guest who said that Birmingham was a city “where non-Muslims just simply don’t go”.
Fox News was taken off air between 5am and 11pm on election day to avoid any issues with Ofcom.
Ofcom, which has examined Fox’s proposed takeover of Sky, filed a report to the government saying that it found “there are no broadcasting standards concerns which may justify a reference by the secretary of state to the Competition and Markets Authority”.
Sky, which is 39% controlled by Fox, continues to fund Sky News, which loses tens of millions of pounds a year.