ANOTHER VIEW: Not up Rupert's Street

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The Independent Online
In its brutal way, Sky's attempt to poach Coronation Street from the terrestrial channels of independent television is a compliment. But it is one that must be rejected - and not just by Granada, the maker of Britain's most popular series. Everyone who believes high-quality television should be available to all for the price of the licence fee alone ought to resist Rupert Murdoch's latest attempt to drag reluctant subscribers towards his satellite company.

Predators always pick the juiciest prey and pirates naturally chose to plunder the most valuable cargoes. So it was natural enough for Sky to treat Coronation Street as a loss leader which, once acquired, would attract new customers and encourage them to sample its more tawdry goods. That is the charitable interpretation of the Murdoch plot. The alternative explanation is that he hopes to blackmail viewers: "Buy a Sky dish or never see Coronation Street again."

So the resistance to his proposal ought to be mounted by viewers who have barely heard of Des Barnes, Raquel Wolstenholme and Jack Duckworth.

For Coronation Street is without question the best of its kind. To remove it from the universally available channels would have two related and disastrous effects. We would move closer to the era in which all independent television (and too much of the BBC) was devoted to mindless quiz shows and ancient movies. And we would give another boost to Sky which, having attracted more viewers by monopolising the most popular programmes, would fill up most of its time on most of its channels with American trash.

I supported the Sky bid for Premiership football, because it put money into the game without depriving the BBC of anything it had previously broadcast. We have never had live league games on BBC1 and Match of the Day's recorded highlights continue. But it would be monstrous to give Rupert Murdoch sole rights over great national institutions - Wimbledon, the Cup Final, the service at the Cenotaph and, whether highbrows like it or not, Coronation Street. It would be more of a denial of pleasure to millions of viewers. It would be the wilful decision to hand another lever of media power to a transmission company whose output demonstrates how little interest it has in real quality and original production.

The Broadcasting Act that Margaret Thatcher pushed through Parliament allowed Rupert Murdoch uniquely to maintain ownership of five newspapers, yet still control a whole series of television channels. His thirst for monopoly power seems limitless.

Granada - although it has lost some of the lustre of the Foreman-Plowright era - is still regarded as a standard-bearer for high-quality television. If it wants to maintain that reputation, it has to resist the Murdoch bid - undoubtedly the money will be good but the result would be disastrous for British broadcasting.

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