Sky adds TV subscribers as bid battle intensifies

21st Century Fox bid £11.4 billion for the part of Sky it is yet to own nearly 18 months ago. (AFP)
Updated 19 April 2018
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Sky adds TV subscribers as bid battle intensifies

LONDON: Sky, the pan-European TV giant, said Thursday that it had added 38,000 customers in its third quarter as a takeover battle for the group intensified.
Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox is hoping to buy the 61 percent of Sky it does not own but the long-running battle has been held up by competition concerns over media plurality and broadcasting standards in Britain.
Amid the delay, US cable giant Comcast has offered more than £22 billion for all of Sky, trumping Fox’s bid on a price-per-share basis.
In a further twist, Disney is hoping to buy Fox for $52.4 billion — a deal that would see British government concerns over Murdoch’s far-reaching media control in Britain fall away.
Awaiting developments in the takeover saga, Sky on Thursday added that its revenue climbed 5.0 percent to £10.14 billion in the first nine months of its 2017-18 financial year that runs to the end of June.
“In media terms, Sky is currently the belle of the ball, attracting overseas suitors aplenty. This update is another vindication of the interest being shown,” noted Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.
Earlier this month, 21st Century Fox proposed selling rolling TV channel Sky News to Disney in order to finally seal control of Sky.
Nearly 18 months ago, 21st Century Fox bid £11.4 billion for the part of Sky it is yet to own.
The Fox bid, pitched at £10.75 per Sky share, is significantly lower than the Comcast offer of £12.50.
But earlier this year, Britain’s Competitions and Markets Authority provisionally ruled that Murdoch’s planned takeover was not in the public interest and that a deal would hand him too much power in swaying public opinion.
Murdoch owns also major British newspaper titles The Times and The Sun.
To counter the regulatory obstacle, 21st Century Fox has proposed to sell Sky News to Disney even if the latter does not buy Fox.
Another option put up by Fox is to ring-fence Sky News.


Google employees demand more oversight of China search engine plan

A Google sign is seen during the China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference (ChinaJoy) in Shanghai, China August 3, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 17 August 2018
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Google employees demand more oversight of China search engine plan

  • Hundreds of employees have called on the company to provide more “transparency, oversight and accountability
  • Employees have asked Google to create an ethics review group with rank-and-file workers, appoint ombudspeople to provide independent review and internally publish assessments of projects

SAN FRANCISCO: Google is not close to launching a search engine app in China, its chief executive said at a companywide meeting on Thursday, according to a transcript seen by Reuters, as employees of the Alphabet Inc. unit called for more transparency and oversight of the project.
Chief Executive Sundar Pichai told staff that though development is in an early stage, providing more services in the world’s most populous country fits with Google’s global mission.
Hoping to gain approval from the Chinese government to provide a mobile search service, the company plans to block some websites and search terms, Reuters reported this month, citing unnamed sources.
Whether the company could or would launch search in China “is all very unclear,” Pichai said, according to the transcript. “The team has been in an exploration stage for quite a while now, and I think they are exploring many options.”
Disclosure of the secretive effort has disturbed some Google employees and human rights advocacy organizations. They are concerned that by agreeing to censorship demands, Google would validate China’s prohibitions on free expression and violate the “don’t be evil” clause in the company’s code of conduct.
Hundreds of employees have called on the company to provide more “transparency, oversight and accountability,” according to an internal petition seen by Reuters on Thursday.
After a separate petition this year, Google announced it would not renew a project to help the US military develop artificial intelligence technology for drones.
The China petition says employees are concerned the project, code named Dragonfly, “makes clear” that ethics principles Google issued during the drone debate “are not enough.”
“We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building,” states the document seen by Reuters.
The New York Times first reported the petition on Thursday. Google declined to comment.
Company executives have not commented publicly on Dragonfly, and their remarks at the company-wide meeting marked their first about the project since details about it were leaked.
Employees have asked Google to create an ethics review group with rank-and-file workers, appoint ombudspeople to provide independent review and internally publish assessments of projects that raise substantial ethical questions.
Pichai told employees: “We’ll definitely be transparent as we get closer to actually having a plan of record here” on Dragonfly, according to the transcript. He noted the company guards information on some projects where sharing too early can “cause issues.”
Three former employees involved with Google’s past efforts in China told Reuters current leadership may see offering limited search results in China as better than providing no information at all.
The same rationale led Google to enter China in 2006. It left in 2010 over an escalating dispute with regulators that was capped by what security researchers identified as state-sponsored cyberattacks against Google and other large US firms.
The former employees said they doubt the Chinese government will welcome back Google. A Chinese official, who declined to be named, told Reuters this month that it is “very unlikely” Dragonfly would be available this year.