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Business Comment

James Moore: Clouds clear from Sky despite a murky outlook

Outlook Here's a question for Ofcom: what would it take to make an entity unfit to own a British broadcaster?

The watchdog quite rightly takes the view that wrongdoing within an organisation is very relevant to the decision on whether it is "fit and proper" to hold a broadcasting licence, even if the wrong doing is wholly unrelated to broadcasting.

You'd be a little bit worried about XYZ Corp running Moon TV if part of the organisation had been involved in criminality; false accounting, perhaps, bribing potential business associates or listening into their conversations through phone-hacking.

Even if the broadcasting operation were scrupulously clean you'd have a right to be concerned about whether it could stay that way with an owner as dubious as that.

Hang on, though, wasn't the last one of the above examples exactly what went on at News Group Newspapers, Rupert Murdoch's publishing arm?

What Ofcom has found is that while his son, James, was guilty of some pretty poor conduct at the latter – "difficult to comprehend and ill-judged" is what Ofcom says of it – he hasn't actually been implicated in any wrongdoing. And nor has his dad. For now, some of the clouds in the Sky have disappeared.

In the meantime, Murdoch senior, who has for years treated Sky as one of his personal playthings, may have to put up with a more arm's length relationship. Sky might even start to resemble a properly governed company, at least until the fuss dies down. If it dies down.

Ofcom has pledged to keep the situation under review. If the regulator wants to avoid the accusation that it lacks to stomach to take the radical decision to strip Sky of its licence, it will need to.