Sadly for Ed Miliband, who has fought a tenacious campaign, he was wrong to say a regulator has finally said no to the Murdochs. The Competition & Markets Authority formal no to 21st Century Fox’s full takeover of Sky was a qualified rejection. The takeover body proceeded to set out a list of possible remedies that may lead to a yes when the culture secretary, Matt Hancock, gets the final say.

Rupert Murdoch will view the CMA’s fudge as a decent result. He’s a deal-maker, remember. A haggle over the future funding and independence of Sky News, which is now the central focus, could be viewed as a light diversion from his greater project of selling the bulk of Fox to Disney.

Most of Miliband’s hopes rested on the CMA declaring that the Murdoch clan, on account of the biased dross produced by Fox News in the US, shouldn’t be allowed to control 100% of Sky. But the CMA decided Fox could be trusted to uphold UK broadcasting standards.

Instead, the CMA’s objection was on grounds of media plurality. In other words, the Murdochs would control too much of the UK media and could have too much political influence. Fine, but the plurality concerns were entirely concentrated on Sky News. If Fox can fix that aspect, the deal – in theory – is on again.

One of CMA’s suggested remedies – forcing a sale of Sky News – is probably a non-starter. It’s hard to find committed owners of a consistently loss-making news operation, and there’s no point looking to stock market investors.

Then the CMA suggests Sky News could be spun off with a fat endowment. That’s better if the promise is 10 years’ worth of money, as Murdoch pledged back in 2011. The third idea is to give Sky News an independent editorial board, plus five years of guaranteed money, while allowing the operation to stay within Sky.

The third structure is probably the best since it is possible that a Disney-owned Sky could be a good and rich long-term owner. But, to cover all possibilities, the upfront promises from the Murdochs must be bigger, bolder and watertight.

The editorial board must be immensely stronger than the flimsy construction erected by Rupert Murdoch at the Times and Sunday Times in the 1980s. The version described to Ofcom in an earlier round of the current saga didn’t fit the bill: it gave the Murdochs too much influence over appointments.

On the money front, Fox offered five years’ worth of funding to Ofcom. It should be told 10 years, even if that means £250m or so, and all undertakings should be binding on the Mickey Mouse folks. Amid this whirlwind of deals, an independent Sky News is worth saving.

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EasyJet eyes pleasing data

Johan Lundgren, the new chief executive at easyJet, didn’t have to do much on his first stock market outing other than agree that, a few weeks into the job, everything is going swimmingly.

Rivals, including Air Berlin, Monarch and Alitalia, have gone bankrupt, which has helped to clear some of the over-capacity in the European short-haul market. Ticket prices are rising. The 6.6% increase in revenue per seat covered a low-season quarter but was the strongest figure easyJet has achieved in ages.

Will he change anything? The big idea is to analyse billions of pieces of data. Does Coke sell better than Pepsi on the onboard trolley, and is Fever-Tree the tonic water of choice for easyJet customers? Yes and yes, as it happens, but those revelations don’t sound like gamechangers.

But perhaps there are serious gains to be harvested if crawling over data in detail means fewer delays and cancellations. That would be a competitive advantage. Wisely, Lundgren didn’t put a figure on the productivity savings, but he won’t be the last incoming boss to decide he needs a chief data officer. The artificial intelligence revolution is happening.

What price success, Mr Musk?

Are we meant to take Elon Musk’s potential $55.8bn (£40bn) bonus at Tesla seriously? The numbers, including the targets the electric car company would have to achieve to hit the jackpot, are so off-the-scale that the “compensation” package reads like an elaborate joke. Is it a satire on how much US chief executives who aren’t planning to colonise Mars can make these days?

Or perhaps the big number is designed to draw attention from the fact that, even at the low end of the target range, Musk would collect a few billion. Either way, it’s probably time to revisit his assertion that he’s not driven by money or remotely interested in dynastic wealth. Not even a little bit? Are you sure?


Nils Pratley

The GuardianTramp

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