A shift in the landscape


It’s been big news for a while, and as a PR agency in Manchester with more than a passing interest in the headlines we’ve read on with keen interest. Then on Monday (March 21st) new fuel was added to the fire, meaning we finally felt obliged to comment.
So Rupert Murdoch, or rather News Corporation, is to buy the remaining 61 per cent of BSkyB. In return the same amount of Sky News will be emancipated from said editorial influence, creating a new publicly listed, independently funded service, Newco. No change there then, as we’ve known this was on the cards for sometime.
The real surprise is that Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Jeremy Hunt has used The Guardian, one of the most outspoken critics of the media mogul, as a soapbox with which to defend his decision to green-light the deal. It’s a move that smacks of a politician trying to neutralise every naysayer by using a title they trust to douse the flames. And an interesting read it is too, not least as the paper in question adopts an amusingly negative tone.
The cabinet minister argues against accusations that ‘swapping’ a stake in a news network for complete control of Britain’s most profitable broadcaster doesn’t measure up (“It was not for me to make suggestions as to what would be an appropriate remedy“). He also states that a new communications bill, expected in the second half of the current parliament, should address the organic growth of media organisations within the context of market monopolies.
In short, groups like News Corporation have seen exponential augmentation in recent memory, a situation that, as the interviewee admitted to the left-leaning national, needs to be monitored more closely. If this isn’t scrutinised, all other competitors could wind up unable to compete, which wouldn’t be very fair. With these sentiments in mind then, times don’t seem quite so desperate.
A controversial, near-monolithic organisation that already dictates the information millions of people consume daily (via The Sun, The Times, and many more) might be about to take complete ownership of the country’s leading subscription TV service. But the government’s got their number, so everything should be A-OK. Sadly, as anyone who caught Channel 4’s Dispatches: Tabloids, Tories and Phone Hacking last October will know, this, unsurprisingly, may not be the case.
The programme focused on Andy Coulson, former Editor of News of the World (another News Corporation paper), who went on to become David Cameron’s Director of Communications (until resigning in January 2011). And, worryingly, the links went far deeper, ‘revealing’ further ties between the Conservative party, and Mr Murdoch’s various businesses. Now, looking at the BSkyB proposals, things look a little less clear.
But it’s not our job to judge. After all, if the journalists are still approachable and open minded then the inner workings of Britain’s press, which by nature is in a constant state of flux, really has no effect on us. But, as we’ve expressed before, should media plurality begin to slide then we risk losing control of vital information, which in turn can lead to unspeakably disastrous scenarios. Double page spread or not, this is something we firmly object to, so let’s hope Mr Hunt has no regrets when he looks back at this moment…

This video is embedded from You Tube, with copyright owned by Channel 4.
Top image (C) Craig A Rodway