Leading article: Our democracy is stronger for the dropping of BSkyB bid

We now know that the integrity of our public institutions is not for sale to the highest bidder

Share
Related Topics

He fought desperately, but ultimately in vain. Yesterday Rupert Murdoch bowed to the inevitable and dropped his bid to take full control of the satellite broadcaster BSkyB. The media mogul had executed two dramatic manoeuvres within a week in order to keep the acquisition alive: the closure of the 168-year-old News of the World and the withdrawal of News Corp's promises to sell Sky News (which triggered a Competition Commission inquiry). But when the will of Parliament was starkly revealed yesterday, with the cross-party consensus that News Corp should back away, the game was finally up.

"It has become too difficult to progress in this climate," said News Corp's chairman, Chase Carey, with wonderful understatement yesterday. He might have been describing the cancellation of an afternoon walk because of some inclement weather, rather than the collapse of a £12bn takeover deal that could have dramatically reshaped the UK media landscape.

News Corp also said that it remains committed to BSkyB. And the firm still owns 39 per cent of the broadcaster. But as the former prime minister Gordon Brown asked in Parliament yesterday: is News Corp "fit and proper" to own even that sizeable stake, given what has emerged in recent weeks? The broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, must continue to examine that question, even though the acquisition attempt is over. This is not the end of this crisis for Mr Murdoch.

Some within the Murdoch orbit were privately suggesting that what took place yesterday shows that the UK is closing its doors to foreign investment. This is desperate nonsense. This was no normal takeover. It would have created the UK's largest media conglomerate, with potentially catastrophic implications for competition and diversity in the sector.

And these are no normal circumstances. One of Mr Murdoch's newspapers stands accused of the most disgusting behaviour – hacking the phones of terrorism and murder victims and bribing the police. There is a strong smell of a cover-up around executives in his organisation. The police are investigating with a view to bringing charges. An important public inquiry into the links between Mr Murdoch's publications, the Metropolitan Police and successive British governments is about to begin its work. It would have been ridiculous for the authorities to have allowed Mr Murdoch to embark on a commercial expansion at a time when the propriety of his organisation – and its apparently corrupting effects on both the police and politics – is being examined.

Britain is open to foreign investment – indeed much more open than any other economy. But the fact that Britain is open for business does not mean the integrity of our public institutions is for sale to the highest bidder, or that powerful media tycoons can get what they want regardless of the behaviour of their organisations. That was a lesson that Mr Murdoch – after many decades of exceptional treatment from the British authorities – was finally compelled to take on board yesterday. And British democracy is the stronger for it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn