Leading article: Power that threatens both an industry and democracy

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

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

C# asp.net Developer - West Sussex - permanent - £40k - £50k

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Project Manager (infrastructure, upgrades, rollouts)

£38000 - £45000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

Project Manager (App development, SAP, interfacing)

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Daily catch-up: Ed Miliband on low pay; Alan Johnson on Betjeman; Tom Freeman on editing

John Rentoul
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments