Mathew Horsman on the media

The Broadcasting Bill, now making its tortuous way through the Lords, was conceived with one chief aim: to encourage the growth of Little Murdochs.

How? By engendering well-capitalised companies with global aspirations, allowing them to sprawl across the once heavily guarded borders separating TV, newspapers and radio.

So what are we to make of the first fruit of this brave new legislation, the marriage of Lord Hollick's MAI and the United News & Media empire run by Lord Stevens of Ludgate?

Little Murdochs they ain't. Rupert Murdoch's fortune is derived from the clever use of his dominant position in newspapers, his risky willingness to bet the farm every seven or so years on "the big idea". That and and a legendary understanding of what drives consumer media - whether it is bare breasts on page 3, wall-to-wall sport on Sky Television or, most recently, a crusade against liberalism in the US, via his launch of a 24-hour news service aimed at breaking the control of the "liberal elite" on American television journalism.

Moreover, he has the money to do it all. His News Corporation offered pounds 1.2bn (with partners) in a failed bid for European broadcasting rights to the Olympics. His 40 per cent owned BSkyB has paid pounds 300m for rights to Premier League football, and will probably offer more than pounds 500m to renew the TV contract next year (unless the Restrictive Practices Court, which is reviewing the agreement, unexpectedly overturns it). News Corporation owns publishing companies, the 20th Century Fox film studio, a US cable network, a US terrestrial TV network (Fox), scores of US and UK newspapers and even an Internet services company.

Even if you just count the UK interests (and I wouldn't, as it is precisely the global nature of his businesses that gives Murdoch his clout), the empire is huge, taking in the Sun, the News of the World, the Times, the Sunday Times and 40 per cent of BSkyB, itself worth about pounds 6.5bn.

What are MAI and United News next to that? Not much. The new combine brings together two regional ITV companies (Anglia and Meridian), three struggling national newspapers (the Daily Express, the Sunday Express and the Daily Star), regional newspapers, magazines and MAI's money-broking operations. No film studio, no pay-TV network, no book publishing.

Oh, well. You have to start somewhere. So can this merger be a step towards creating a truly global, UK-based media kingdom, able, eventually, to vie with Murdoch and the other world-league media barons?

The answer depends on your perspective - long or short term. Initially, Lords Hollick and Stevens will not have accomplished much even if they do manage to make it to the altar. (Rumours abound of a spoiling bid from Michael Green's Carlton Communications). Despite much talk about "synergy" between newspapers and television, there is really very little scope to leverage investments in both industries into sharply higher profits.

What the two men have gained is some breathing space from potentially hostile bidders. They also get a bit more critical mass to contemplate bigger acquisitions of their own.

Size does count. Alone, Lord Hollick might have found it difficult to come up with the funds to buy Yorkshire-Tyne Tees, the ITV franchise he has long coveted. Now, the acquisition looks far easier to contemplate. Lord Stevens, for his part, gets the chance to complete his relaunch of the Express titles, secure that he has a competent, well-financed partner.

In the long term there may be some merit in merging the two groups. Ultimately, we are going to see a huge transformation in the way entertainment and information are delivered to us. It is clear that media are converging, as the traditional barriers between telecoms and broadcasting, between "content" and "carriage", break down. We may be able to access video, sound and text on a single screen, choosing from a wealth of options. Companies able to supply packaged information efficiently - and profitably - will be the big winners.

Murdoch already has the pieces in place. No British company is there yet, even if there are wise players who have elected to concentrate on niches within the marketplace.

Lord Hollick intends to be among the winners. He speaks intelligently about his long-term strategy, offering the prospect of themed entertainment channels for subscription television, or packaged financial services information developed by MAI's money-broking arm. At first, however, the "synergy" looks far more modest. He wants to see MAI's TV interests, for example, heavily promoted in the Express titles.

On balance, the MAI/United News deal, the first ever involving a national newspaper publisher and an ITV company, isn't all that convincing. Are there any better candidates for Britain's "national champion"?

The smart money only sees two serious contenders in Britain - and both are far from perfectly placed. Pearson, the media and publishing conglomerate, is viewed as too diverse and too complacent. But its media investments of recent years do reveal an impressive, comprehensive strategy of buying up programming rights and production companies, on the quite sensible assumption that "content" will always be required, whatever the method of delivery - cable, satellite, telephone lines or even wireless.

The other candidate for Little Murdoch fame is Michael Green's Carlton, the pounds 2.4bn television and video production company. Indeed, most media analysts would have been much happier to see Green bid for MAI than for the proposed MAI/United News merger to go through. In some circles, Green is thought to be too conservative and lacking in truly global vision. Has he got what it takes? Has anyone got what it takes to be a Big Murdoch rather than a Little Murdoch?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Senior Web Developer - C# / ASP.NET - London - £55K

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Web Deve...

SThree: Internal Recruitment Consultant (In-House)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Are you an ambitious, money moti...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer - Peterborough - £18,000

£22000 - £23000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Manager / Account Director – DSP / Ad tech / RTB

£50,000- £70,000 + commission : Sphere Digital Recruitment: This DSP is an onl...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower