Murdoch row

Stephen Glover: Annual profits of £878m – and now they're all his

Where Rupert Murdoch is concerned, it is hard to have a rational debate. There are many in politics and the media who have made up their minds that he is a force for evil. They will quickly conclude that the deal on BSkyB unveiled yesterday will significantly increase his media power and the sway he has over British politics.

Already some are saying the agreement over Sky News, whereby Mr Murdoch will be unable to increase his stake of 39 per cent for at least 10 years, is not worth the paper it is written on. I disagree. Under the new arrangements the independence of the chairman and of a majority of non-executive directors will provide some counterbalance to Mr Murdoch. It is very difficult to see how he will be able to increase such little actual influence over Sky News as he already enjoys and he may well have even less.

Any thought that he might turn Sky News into a British version of the wildly right-wing Fox News in America is now out of the question. The neutrality of Sky will continue to be enforced by impartiality laws to which the Coalition is committed. Mr Murdoch will provide what Mr Hunt called a "substantial revenue stream" to keep the loss-making Sky News afloat, as he has been doing. In essence we will get more of the same, a generally excellent and non-partisan news channel.

Mr Hunt is to be congratulated for having preserved the independence of Sky News. However, there is no disguising that Mr Murdoch's commercial power will greatly increase if BSkyB's other shareholders agree terms, as they are surely very likely to do. He will then own all of a very profitable company. Its most recent annual profits were £878m.

News International is already the biggest newspaper group in Britain. Once it has absorbed BSkyB its profits will be many times greater than those of the next biggest newspaper group, Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT), whose most recent yearly profits were £201m. Its revenues will also comfortably exceed those of the BBC.

That explains why a diverse collection of media groups including the BBC, DMGT, Telegraph Media Group and Guardian Media Group have so vociferously opposed Mr Murdoch's takeover of all of BSkyB.

However, greater commercial clout need not translate into greater political power or a less pluralistic media. News International's papers are all selling significantly fewer copies than they were five years ago.

My advice to querulous newspaper groups (who are intending to challenge the deal) is to have more confidence in the quality of their journalism and to be less intimidated by Mr Murdoch. News International's mishandling of the News of the World phone hacking allegations suggests weak management, as does its seeming failure to introduce profitable newspaper paywalls. Mr Murdoch, 80 in a few days' time, is by no means the creative or journalistic power he was.

The BBC has more to fear because the buoyant part of an enlarged News International will be BSkyB. The Corporation long ago ceded its pre-eminence in sports coverage to Sky Sports. But it still produces more and better drama, though increasing competition from BSkyB might serve to make it sharpen up its act.

There is no doubt, though, that David Cameron's pre-election courting of Rupert Murdoch and their enduring relationship will make many people more sceptical of the agreement than they would otherwise be. It was foolish in the extreme for the Prime Minister to have dinner with Rupert Murdoch's son James, chairman and chief executive of News Corp, and Rebekah Brooks, chief operating officer of News International, in Mrs Brooks' house over Christmas.

In other words, Mr Hunt's protestations that his script has not been written by his leader will be widely disbelieved, though he may well be telling the truth. Many people will not look at the detail of the deal but at the circumstances that surround it, and they will probably conclude that it is much more favourable to Rupert Murdoch than it is. Ageing and increasingly ineffectual though the media mogul may be, he continues to cast his spell over British politics.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Legal Recruitment Consultant

Highly Competitive Salary + Commission: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL BASED - DEALING ...

Digital Project Manager / Web Project Manager

£45-50k (DOE) + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced ...

Account Manager

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Account Manager to join ...

Social Advertising Manager / Social Media Manager

£Excellent + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Social Advertising Manager / Social Med...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home