Stephen Glover: Why Sky News has an attitude problem

Media Studies: I do dislike the idea of foreign media moguls doing shady deals with would-be British prime ministers

Does Rupert Murdoch want to turn Sky News into Fox News? Fox is an unashamedly right-wing American television news channel owned by Mr Murdoch. Sky News, by contrast, is pretty even-handed, constrained as it is by Britain's television impartiality laws.

The question of Murdoch's intentions arises because he is trying to acquire the 61 per cent of Sky he does not already own. Most pundits have assumed that his chief motivation is financial: Sky is expected to make enormous profits over the next few years, and Murdoch would like to be the sole beneficiary.

But there is another theory: that he wants to make even more money by turning Sky News – a loss leader with a small audience – into a more profitable British Fox. This is what Polly Toynbee suggested in the Guardian last week. Perhaps I owe her an apology, having suggested recently that she and her ilk had ignored Mr Murdoch's manoeuvrings over Sky. Now Polly is firing on all cylinders, though some of what she wrote is bonkers – for example, her contention that "Sky's budget is already twice that of BBC television's".

The evidence that the media mogul wants to pep up Sky News runs as follows. Item one: last August, his son James delivered a speech in which he complained about the power of the regulator Ofcom and impartiality laws. Item two: in January, John Ryley, head of Sky News, said that the impartiality laws should be scrapped. He added, though we may take this with a pinch of salt, that it was "good business" for Sky News to remain impartial, his implication being that the British do not like Fox-like rants.

There is little doubt that Mr Murdoch wants to free up Sky News, though how is uncertain. The plot thickens when we throw in allegations that David Cameron had made a Faustian pact with the Murdochs. There is no evidence, of course. What we have is the Murdoch-owned Sun's desertion of New Labour and its embrace of the Tories last autumn, and its subsequent limpet-like support of anything and everything Mr Cameron does, including forming a coalition with Nick Clegg, whom the paper could previously not abide.

As long ago as last December, the then Business Secretary, Peter Mandelson, alleged that the Tory leader had agreed to legislate so as to liberate Sky from the clutches of Ofcom and impartiality laws. Maybe it takes a born conspirator to spot a conspiracy. I would not be surprised if there had been a deal. The problem is that it was made without the Lib Dems in mind. And the man who must rule on Mr Murdoch's proposed acquisition of the whole of Sky is none other than Vince Cable, the Lib Dem Business Secretary.

There are two issues: the takeover of Sky; and the removal of impartiality laws. Mr Cable is required to arbitrate on the former. (The European Commission also has a separate say.) The Business Secretary recently said there "would need to be a lot of evidence" for him to become involved, which may imply he doesn't want to. He could maintain that as the Murdochs already effectively control Sky, their acquisition of the remaining shares is purely academic.

Except that gaining control would enable them to move to stage two – the "Foxification" or, at any rate, transformation of Sky News into a channel with attitude. In principle, I don't regard the idea of television channels having views with the horror that Polly Toynbee does. If newspapers can, why not television? But I do dislike the idea of foreign media moguls doing shady deals with would-be British prime ministers. The removal of impartiality laws would in practice chiefly benefit Sky News since other news organisations would probably carry on as at present, and the costs of entry to newcomers are very high. How could it be seen other than a dirty deal? This is the hornet's nest in the midst of which the supposedly virtuous Vince Cable now finds himself.

I can't wait to see what BBC stars earn



Last week, I chided the BBC for exempting itself from the austerity measures affecting the public sector. So, I was pleased to hear the announcement last Wednesday by Sir Michael Lyons, chair of the BBC Trust, that the Corporation's senior executives will take a pay cut this year and next, equivalent to the loss of a month's salary in each year. I am even happier that the BBC has listened to its critics, and agreed to publish the names and salaries of its highest paid stars, though these will be disclosed in bands rather than as exact figures.

These revelations will, I predict, create an even bigger hullabaloo. It is, for example, one thing for newspapers to repeat the leaked story that Jeremy Paxman is paid £1m a year, another to have the figure confirmed by the BBC. This will make uncomfortable reading for many "stars". It is nonsense, though, to say they will stomp off. Most have nowhere else to go.





How Piers Morgan got Lost in Showbiz



Every Friday, the Guardian runs a column called Lost in Showbiz by Marina Hyde. Written in an arch and superior tone, it provides an excuse to publish stories about celebrities one might associate with grubbier newspapers. The Times has copied the idea – less successfully, according to closer students than me.

One of the biggest showbiz stories of the past couple of weeks has been the marriage of "TV star" Piers Morgan to his long-standing girlfriend, Celia Walden. Lost in Showbiz would normally clear the decks for such an event, yet there was no mention of it, as there never is of anything involving Mr Morgan. Ms Hyde's almost obsessive omissions are deeply puzzling. Is there a Guardian reader, or other kind soul, who could explain them to me?

s.glover@independent.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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 Media

Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst - High Wycombe - £30,000

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst role...

Guru Careers: Talent Manager

£30-35k (P/T - Pro Rata) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienc...

Sauce Recruitment: New Media Marketing Manager - EMEA - Digital Distribution

£35000 - £45000 per annum + up to £45,000: Sauce Recruitment: The Internation...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing / PR / Social Media Executive

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A thriving online media busines...

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