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UK Aims to Ban Foreign State Ownership of British Papers

The UK government announced its intention on Wednesday to prohibit foreign governments from owning British newspapers, potentially derailing the proposed acquisition of the Telegraph Media Group by an Abu Dhabi-led consortium.

Media Minister Stephen Parkinson affirmed the Conservative government's dedication to amending legislation to prevent foreign state ownership of newspapers. This decision comes amidst scrutiny and pressure surrounding the proposed takeover of the Daily Telegraph and Spectator magazine by a joint venture, predominantly owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President and Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates.

The joint venture, RedBird IMI, backed by US firm RedBird Capital and Abu Dhabi's International Media Investments, secured a £1.2 billion ($1.5 billion) deal with TMG's owners, the Barclay family, in November. This transaction involved RedBird IMI assuming control of the media group after paying off bank debts.

The proposed acquisition triggered outcry within British media circles, prompting the UK government to launch a formal investigation into the sale on public interest grounds.

Notably, concerns have been raised among lawmakers within the ruling Conservative party, who have historically enjoyed a close relationship with the right-leaning Telegraph titles. The potential takeover has also raised alarms among staff and advocates for press freedom.

RedBird IMI, primarily owned by Sheikh Mansour, who also owns Manchester City football club, has faced scrutiny. Jeff Zucker, former CNN president and head of RedBird, emphasized that Mansour would maintain a passive role and described the acquisition as "American-led." However, concerns persist regarding foreign influence in British media ownership.

March 14, 2024 1:28 p.m. 5444

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