Outlook: Another reason to privatise the BBC
Wednesday 08 September 1999
Walt Disney has already bought ABC, while, never a stickler for the rules, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp managed some years ago to carve out its own fourth network while coincidentally owning the Fox film studios. Another recent rule change allowing ownership of more than one TV station in any one city has now allowed Viacom to reunite with CBS. Of the big networks, only NBC, part of General Electric, is left looking for a partner.
Media isn't the only business where deregulation is allowing torn apart companies to come together again. Telecommunications is the other obvious case. Across the industrial spectrum, "vertical integration" - the tying together of product and distribution - has once again become the big corporate end game.
The merits of this process are at best debatable, both from a public interest perspective and in terms of commercial benefit to the new partners, but there seems to be no stopping it now. In the US, both business leaders and policy makers share a common vision; the creation of these media goliaths will allow global domination in this, one of the world's fastest growth industries. Quite why worldly ambition of this sort should still be exercising Sumner Redstone, 75, is a mystery, but rediscovered youth (Rupert Murdoch is 68) seems to be something of a prerequisite on the US media scene.
Back here in the UK, we've always allowed the vertical integration of production and broadcast, but that's where our liberal approach to these matters ends. In other respects broadcast TV is highly regulated while, through the BBC, nearly a half of it is still publicly owned. This is a shame, because in the BBC we also have a global brand to compete with the very best that the US can offer. Unfortunately, it may not long remain so.
If giant global media players of the type about to be created by Viacom are the future, then the BBC, lacking both the stock and the cash to play the same game, will find itself marginalised and it won't be long before Nickalodeon, MTV and the Nashville Network are better recognised on the streets of Calcutta than dear old Auntie. For all we know, they already are.
If you take the view that the BBC's role should be confined to British public service broadcasting, then this may not seem to matter very much. But even that position would seem to be in considerable danger. The more that viewers are persuaded to pay for cable and satellite TV, the harder it is to justify the licence fee and the less willing people are to pay it. One way or another, privatisation of the BBC is going to have to return to the political agenda in the months and years ahead.
- 1 BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
- 4 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 5 Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
iJobs Money & Business
£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...
£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....
£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...