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UAE-backed fund's planned Telegraph takeover raises press freedom fears

Members of parliament and former state security figures have raised concerns about what it would mean for an entity with close ties to a foreign government to own one of the United Kingdom’s most influential newspapers.
Photo illustration of a selection of front pages from UK daily national newspaper coverage, London, Jan. 18, 2024.

LONDON — British newspapers being owned by foreign proprietors is nothing new. The Australian-American businessman Rupert Murdoch became the first foreign owner of a UK media outlet in 1969, buying The Sun and the News of the World. A more recent international takeover attempt, however, is attracting more attention than most.

In mid-November, reports emerged that RedBird IMI, a consortium backed by Abu Dhabi’s International Media Investments (IMI) — the investment vehicle for United Arab Emirates Vice President Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan — plans to take control of the Telegraph Media Group (TMG), which owns the conservative Telegraph (The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph) as well as the right-wing magazine The Spectator.

The deal has stalled since Nov. 22, when Lucy Frazer, UK secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, announced that she was “minded to” issue a public intervention notice regarding RedBird IMI’s $600 million planned takeover of TMG.

Meanwhile, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is investigating jurisdictional and competition issues involving the purchase, while Ofcom, Britain’s media regulator, will report on the public interest considerations of the proposed deal. Both the CMA and Ofcom are due to conclude their probes by midnight UK time on Friday.

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