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Murdoch bids for total control of BSkyB

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Posted by Joy Johnson

Media barons and media moguls are descriptions of bygone days, neither of which adequately fit Rupert Murdoch and son James. For the Murdochs are all-powerful global giants, and they have struck at precisely the right time. An economic liberalising coalition government will not step in to put a halt to News Corporation's plans for total control of BSkyB.

As Professor James Curran recently wrote on the Open Democracy website:
"One consequence of the current quiescence is that media conglomerates have been able to persuade governments around the world to ease monopoly controls. In the 1980s, lobbyists argued that these were redundant since the advent of new communication technology would lead to the break-up of media empires.

“Now the argument is more frequently heard that media 'consolidation' is necessary for success in the competitive global marketplace. This shift symbolises the way in which successful media giants have so far weathered the storm of increased competition, and won increased acceptance in the era of market liberalism."

This bid of BSkyB comes only two weeks after Virgin TV channels were bought. We now have huge swathes of communications – newspapers, television, broadband - under the control of the Murdoch empire. Those early battles against cross party ownership and the unfair advantage that would ensue appear almost quaint.So who is left to hold News Corporation to account? The prime minister has already promised an Ofcom where its remit will be restricted to its narrow technical and enforcement roles; it will no longer play a role in making policy.

So will it be the culture, media and sport select committee whose chair, John Whittingdale, said after James Murdoch's infamous Edinburgh speech attacking the BBC and Ofcom that much of what he said was “natural Conservative territory"?

Maybe each of the Labour leadership candidates could be asked:

“Will you put a halt to this concentration of power?"

It is often said that ownership doesn't matter, but having this media information control does matter. And as we know Rupert Murdoch wants to introduce Fox-style news here. Thus far he has been thwarted by our impartiality rules, but how long might it be before a Glen Beck is denigrating the airwaves?

This article first appeared on the Left Foot Forward web site at:

DATELINE: 20 June, 2010


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