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15 June, 2024
 
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Government mulls UAE-led takeover of Daily Telegraph

Concerns mount over foreign influence as regulatory reports land on Media Secretary's desk

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In a pivotal moment for British media, the government is deliberating the approval of a UAE-led takeover of the Daily Telegraph, eliciting widespread objections from politicians, journalists, and even a former spy chief who argue that the deal jeopardizes press freedom. Regulatory reports on the takeover were submitted to Media Secretary Lucy Frazer on Monday, placing the fate of the acquisition of the Telegraph and the Spectator magazine in her hands.

The Abu Dhabi-backed buyout, spearheaded by investment group RedBird IMI and supported by UAE Vice President Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has ignited apprehensions of foreign influence in news reporting, with opponents expressing concerns about potential threats to Britain's democracy. Despite the government's historic openness to foreign takeovers, it intervened in this deal, citing the need to evaluate its impact on freedom of expression and accuracy.

Frazer holds the authority to either block the deal outright or initiate a more extended investigation that could span several months. Approximately 100 lawmakers voiced their concerns in a letter to Frazer, emphasizing the pivotal role of a free press in a democracy and warning against potential threats if major media organizations fall under the control of foreign governments.

While there is no inherent prohibition on foreigners owning British newspapers, the prospect of a foreign government, rather than an individual, acquiring the 160-year-old Daily Telegraph has raised alarms among lawmakers. Sheikh Mansour, a key figure in UAE sovereign wealth funds holding British assets, and the owner of Manchester City, leads the investment.

The Barclay family still technically owns both the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator, with RedBird IMI assisting in settling a substantial debt dispute. Telegraph columnists and Spectator editor Fraser Nelson have openly opposed the takeover, expressing concerns about its implications for news trustworthiness. RedBird IMI has offered reassurances, asserting its commitment to maintaining the editorial team's independence and protecting the titles' reputation and credibility. The government's decision carries significant implications for the future landscape of British media ownership and its relationship with foreign entities.

[Source: Reuters]

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