Leading article: Power that threatens both an industry and democracy

News Corp could exploit its position further by what the industry calls ‘cross-bundling’

Share
Related Topics

What took him so long? The Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has spent another four months considering Rupert Murdoch's proposal that his News Corp business should be allowed to take over BSkyB. Now Mr Hunt has given the go-ahead with only the smallest of additional conditions.

That may be good news for the mighty media tycoon, and the politicians of all parties who routinely pay homage at the Murdoch altar, but it is rather alarming for the health of Britain's media and its democracy. Mr Hunt will doubtless insist that he has ensured that media diversity has been secured by requiring Sky News to be hived off in a separate company with an independent chairman and directors, none of whom can have worked for the Murdoch empire in the past five years. A "monitoring trustee" will be appointed to ensure News Corp complies with its undertakings.

All of that is utterly worthless. Rupert Murdoch made similar promises when he bought the News of the World, then the Times and Sunday Times and then the Wall Street Journal. They proved wholly ineffective in protecting editorial independence, as former Murdoch editors have testified; the managing editor of the Journal, whose position was protected by the committee structure set up to secure the deal, resigned after just four months, with a handsome pay-off.

But all that is to miss the real point, which is what Ofcom did when it focused concerns on the narrowing of the plurality of media ownership. The real threat is not that Mr Murdoch might immediately increase the percentage of the population to whom he can peddle his dubious political worldview. It is that it risks extending the commercial power of a media empire which is responsible for widescale and illegal phone-hacking at the News of the World; which manifests an obsessional hatred of the BBC; and which has pioneered a style of virulently partisan right-wing television at Fox News in the United States.

This deal will be worth billions to Mr Murdoch. Alongside that, the £30m a year it will cost him to underwrite Sky News for the next decade is a small price to pay. And there is nothing to stop News Corp taking it over when that period expires. Meanwhile, the power of the giant conglomerate – with its newspaper, television and internet outlets – to fix advertising rates across a range of different media platforms will give the company a market position which verges on anti-competitive.

At a time when the economics of the industry are already tricky, the implications for the rest of the media could be disastrous. News Corp could exploit its position further by what the industry calls "cross-bundling" – offering special television deals to readers of its newspapers, and cross-promoting its services and staff. Add to that Mr Murdoch's record of predatory pricing – slashing the cover price of his papers – and other titles could be driven out of business.

A threat to media diversity is a threat to democracy, which is why a commercial media organisation of this size, which would be even larger than the BBC, would not be permissible in most other democracies. But do not expect Mr Murdoch's Conservative friends to do anything about it. Nor will Ed Miliband, who is following the example set by his predecessors Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in courting the owner of the newspapers of which the Labour party has run scared for decades. For all Vince Cable's posturing about "declaring war on Murdoch", no mainstream politician can afford to make an enemy of a man who sits at the centre of such a vast media web. And that fact alone is the perfect illustration of the dangers of one man having so much media power.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron visiting a primary school last year  

The only choice in schools is between the one you want and the ones you don’t

Jane Merrick
Zoë Ball says having her two children was the best thing ever to happen to her  

Start a family – you’ll never have to go out again

John Mullin
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn