My battle with The Murdoch Empire - Business Analysis & Features - Business - The Independent

My battle with The Murdoch Empire

As head of British Satellite Broadcasting in the 1980s, Anthony Simonds-Gooding saw Murdoch's power up close. He has waited 20 years for his warnings to be heeded

The events of the past two weeks have felt like finally having a boil lanced.

It is now21 years since I launched Checks & Balances, a campaign against the concentration of media ownership – finally, some of its goals seem achievable.

I first came across Rupert Murdoch in 1988, when we became business rivals. I was running British Satellite Broadcasting, launched following difficult negotiations with the Government to provide Britain with a satellite television service for the first time. The then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was one of our most enthusiastic supporters –partly since she thought we would help to make Britain a world leader in this technology, but also because she expected us to challenge the duopoly of the BBC and ITV – and ministers promised us a clear run with no new competitors for three to five years.

Then, out of the blue, Mr Murdocharrived with Sky. He was obviously a brilliant businessman with vision and guts, but it was equally clear the rules prevented him launching a British television service – he wasn't British and he already controlled more than 40 per cent of the press. Then he suddenly announced that while Sky would broadcast British programmes only in Britain, the satellite signal was being routed through Belgium, so the rules didn't apply. It was the figleaf that the Government needed to turn a blind eye.

The battle was on. And suddenly, we no longer found Mrs Thatcher quite so supportive – it appeared that the technology gains for British industry we might have promised were not as compelling as the support that the Murdoch press could offer in elections.

We had another problem: MrMurdoch had a newspaper empire that he used unashamedly andcontinuously to promote Sky and to denigrate us, including, I suspected, some personal attacks on me and myfamily. That was tough enough, but Mr Murdoch had deep pockets too – the result was inevitable, and my shareholders sued for peace. The two companies merged and I was out.

Still, while my business dealings with Mr Murdoch left me with a bitter taste, my campaign was purely about the issue of media control. The power those newspapers gave him convinced me that allowing him to extend his ownership of the media could only be unhealthy for British democracy. Over the following two decades I watched with horror as those fears proved well-founded.

Checks & Balances, however, was a failure. People were simply too scared of the Murdoch empire to oppose him. Though our polling showed widespread public support, the campaign struggled to win endorsements from public figures, because they so feared the wrath of the Murdochs. While MPs and journalists were privately encouraging of my endeavours, none would speak out in public. Even members of the non-Murdoch press did not want to be seen supporting me – they feared for the day they might want to work for him.

I don't blame Rupert Murdoch for the way his sphere of influence was allowed to grow unchecked. He was always going to push as far he could push until someone stopped him – and no one ever did. The fault lies with those venal politicians who believed his support would win them office – a mistake, in any case, since Murdoch has only ever backed those he expected to win.

It just went on and on: fromMargaret Thatcher's support, tothe way in which Tony Blair flew halfway round the globe to court him, to David Cameron's appointment of Andy Coulson and hisfriendship with Rebekah Brooks.

Only now, finally, has this stopped. And what's striking is how many people have had the same fears as me all along but never felt able to say so. That tells me the spell has finally been broken.

Indeed, there is not a chance that Mr Murdoch can come back from this. The secret of his power, much like Tiger Woods you might say, was his aura of invincibility – opponents were defeated before they had even taken to the battlefield. But that aura has now been fractured and cannot be repaired. The situation is bad enough already, but by the end of the various inquiries, the Murdochs will really be damaged goods. It has taken more than two decades, but my then 12-year-old son, who told me back then that "What goes around, comes around", has in the end been proved right. This is vindication.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Sales Executive

£20 - 24k (Uncapped Commission - £35k Year 1 OTE): Guru Careers: We are seekin...

Payroll & Accounts Assistant

£20 - 24k + Benefits: Guru Careers: This is a great opportunity for an enthusi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £280 - £320 p/d - 6 months

£280 - £320 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Senior BA - Insurance **URGENT**

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week