Letter: How Murdoch has shown the way for others to follow

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article (5 January) implies that Rupert Murdoch and News International have been inhibiting factors on the development of the New Media Age. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The deregulation now being considered by Government has been advocated by Rupert Murdoch and News International for many years, for all the reasons outlined in your leading article.

The difference is that he and News International did not hang around waiting for the deregulatory sunrise. Contrary to your leading article, though, we did not exploit a 'loophole in the law'. We simply realised that technology had moved ahead faster than regulation; that it had become possible, using medium-powered satellites, to cover the same ground as that covered by the officially endorsed high-powered satellites (which were so heavily regulated that both in the UK and on the Continent the services broadcast over them have failed).

The tentative window of opportunity offered by the Broadcasting Act was not an accident. The Government wanted to see if non-domestic satellite would work. Rupert Murdoch was the only person with guts enough to make it happen. Any courageous newspaper owner who did not already have his hand in the television pot could have done the same, unhampered by ownership regulation of any kind. And they still could.

Media ownership in this country is not lopsided. There are 21 national newspapers, owned by 11 different companies. There are more than 1,300 local and regional newspapers owned by hundreds of different companies. Unlike most other national newspaper owners, News International owns no regional newspaper nor has any terrestrial TV interests.

What we have launched, at great risk to the company and for literally more than pounds 1bn, are six channels of satellite television - received after four years in 3.5 million homes, paid for by voluntary subscription - as opposed to the 20 million reached by terrestrial television.

What our competitors want is to be able to buy into the mature and lucrative regional monopolies provided by terrestrial television. And good luck to them.

But don't excuse lack of entrepreneurial foresight by the burden of regulation. If Rupert Murdoch can do it, so can anyone else.

Yours sincerely,

GUS FISCHER

Chief Executive

News International

London, E1

5 January

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