Twenty years on, Murdoch Jr echoes father’s attack on BBC

Rupert’s son uses MacTaggart Lecture to condemn ‘Orwellian’ Corporation

James Murdoch, the heir to his father Rupert's global News Corporation empire, last night accused the BBC of undertaking a "chilling" land-grab of the media that posed a "serious and imminent" threat to the future provision of news in Britain.

Murdoch Jnr, who is News Corp's chairman and chief executive for Europe and Asia, warned that the dominance of the BBC risked creating the type of news media which George Orwell described in the novel 1984. "As Orwell foretold, to let the state enjoy a near-monopoly of information is to guarantee manipulation and distortion," he said.

Delivering the prestigious James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival, he railed against the "authoritarianism" of the Government and its watchdog Ofcom. He criticised rules designed to uphold impartiality in broadcast news and advocated the system of self-regulation which applied to the press.

The speech, which shocked the television executives, echoed the sentiments of his father, who delivered an outspoken attack on broadcasting establishment in the same venue two decades earlier.

Whereas Murdoch Snr's MacTaggart Lecture of 1989 had predicted the digital future, James Murdoch talked of the "digital present" and compared the media industry's conservatives to the creationists who rejected Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

In powerful language, he remonstrated against the growth of the BBC's news provision on the internet. "Dumping free, state-sponsored news on the market makes it incredibly difficult for journalism to flourish on the internet," he said. "We seem to have decided as a society to let independence and plurality wither. To let the BBC throttle the news market and then get bigger to compensate."

The criticisms reflected his father's comments earlier this month that News Corp's newspapers must begin charging for their online content, a strategy undermined by the BBC website's presence as a vast source of free news. "It is essential for the future of independent digital journalism that a fair price can be charged for news," James Murdoch said last night. He claimed that "the threat to independent news provision is serious and imminent".

The corporation's governing body, The BBC Trust, had an "abysmal record" in overseeing the organisation's activities, he said, citing examples of the BBC's expansionism. "The scale and scope of its [the BBC's] current activities and future ambitions is chilling. Being funded by a universal hypothecated tax, the BBC feels empowered and obliged to try to offer something for everyone, even in areas well served by the market."

The growth of BBC Radio 2, he said, had damaged the radio industry by taking listeners already well-served by the commercial sector. "Performers like Jonathan Ross were recruited on salaries no commercial competitor could afford, and audiences for Radio 2 have grown steadily as a result," he said. "No doubt the BBC celebrates the fact that it now has well over half of all radio listening. But the consequent impoverishment of the once-successful commercial sector is testament to the corporation's inability to distinguish between what is good for it and what is good for the country."

Broadcasting, Murdoch complained, was constrained by an "authoritarian" degree of intervention by Ofcom. He compared British media regulation unfavourably with systems in Germany, India and France. "The problem with the UK is that it is unhappy in every way: it is the Addams Family of world media."

He contrasted the regulation in broadcasting with the self-regulation of the press, praising British newspapers for being "fearless and independent" and suggesting that the aim of achieving impartiality in broadcast news by balancing opinions was unattainable. "The mere selection of stories and their place in the running order is itself a process full of unacknowledged partiality."

Murdoch, 36, is non-executive chairman of BSkyB, whose Sky News service is subject to tight controls on impartiality, unlike the unashamedly right-wing American channel Fox News, also part of the News Corp portfolio. Twenty years ago, Rupert Murdoch's MacTaggart Lecture was characterised by his claim that television was a business and should not be the preserve of a publicly-supported duopoly of the BBC and ITV. Yesterday his son, ended his own speech with a similar homage to capitalism in the media. "There is an inescapable conclusion that we must reach if we are to have a better society," he said. "The only reliable, durable, and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit."

What Rupert said – and did it come true?

By Chris Green

"The arguments which have recently dominated British broadcasting, such as multi-channel choice versus public service duopoly, will soon sound as if they belong to the Stone Age."

Murdoch saw television as a business and believed it could only thrive in a competitive environment – he was right in predicting that the duopoly of the BBC and ITV would not last.

"[TVs will be] linked by fibre optic cable to a global cornucopia of programming and nearly infinite libraries of data, education and entertainment. All with full interactivity."

Very accurate. He predicted the birth of "on-demand" television – something which has only emerged recently – made fully interactive by the internet.

The BBC will find it hard to justify the "compulsory poll tax that finances it" in "the multi-channel world of the mid-1990s".

Only partially correct. Although the licence fee is far from popular, it still survives and has increased in price.

"Is it really healthy for British society to be served up a diet of television which constantly looks backward?"

This debate still continues. Many argue that broadcasters do not show enough innovation, and are incensed by the number of repeats shown.

Sport
Lionel Messi pictured after reaching the final
world cup 2014
Sport
Lionel Messi and Thomas Muller have shone brightest for Argentina and Germany respectively on their way to the World Cup final
Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
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
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

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Sales Engineer - Cowes - £30K-£40K

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Sales Engineer - Cow...

Web / Digital Analyst - Google Analytics, Omniture

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?