Letter: Murdoch's censors

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The Independent Online
IT APPEARS to be suggested by the media that the underlying reason why Chris Patten has withdrawn his book from HarperCollins is that the owner, Rupert Murdoch, did not wish to publish a book which might upset the Chinese government. This is apparently because Mr Murdoch has business interests in China.

This suggestion seems to me to be relevant to the question which was raised recently about the alleged predatory pricing of The Times newspaper. Officials of The Times have been heard to say that the low price is possible because of the enhanced advertising revenue which results from the increase in sales. However, experience has shown that low pricing can be the result of an organisation employing a cross-subsidy from some other activity.

It is here that the need for a Monopolies Commission inquiry becomes manifest. Is the low price in truth justified by enhanced advertising revenues? Or is it achieved by cross-subsidy from other activities, such as those in China, or those of Mr Murdoch's TV empire generally? And is it because of the possible effect on a cross-subsidy from activities in China, that what happened in respect of HarperCollins took place?

Because of the importance of a free press the whole matter of the pricing and conduct of the Murdoch empire ought to be examined by the Monopolies Commission.

STEPHEN GRATWICK QC

Sevenoaks, Kent

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