No wonder Murdoch’s happy: the News Corp horse had already bolted

The stable door had been open for a good while before News Corporation tabled its bid for the 61 per cent of BSkyB it did not already own, writes Martin Moore, director of the Media Standards Trust.

Martin Moore is director of the Media Standards Trust, an independent, non-partisan charity that works for quality, transparency, and accountability in news

The stable door had been open for a good while before News Corporation tabled its bid for the 61 per cent of BSkyB it did not already own. News Corp already had a significant amount of power within the UK media and, on the face of it, increasing its stake in the satellite broadcaster seemed to consolidate rather than extend this power.

It achieved this position gradually, over the course of the few decades, and within the parameters of existing media regulation.

So by the time it tabled a bid last summer, given the regulatory framework that existed, there was only ever likely to be one outcome. This was made more likely still when the European Commission said in December that “it was confident this merger will not weaken competition in the United Kingdom”.

It is unlikely that, had the bid been referred to the Competition Commission, it would have come to a different conclusion.

Ofcom admitted the limitations of existing regulation in its recommendation to the Secretary of State in January:
“The future market developments explored in this report suggest that the current statutory framework may no longer be equipped to achieve Parliament’s policy objective of ensuring sufficient plurality of media ownership.”

As a result, we can now look forward to a media near-duopoly in the UK – News Corp and the BBC. Not a great outcome for those who care about media plurality. The one positive repercussion – if one is looking for any positives from this decision – is that it will be an awful lot harder in future to shrink the BBC in such a Murdoch-dominated media world.

The law may now be changed – belatedly – to address the limitations Ofcom identified (though don’t hold your breath); meanwhile, the News Corp horse has galloped into the distance.

13 Responses to “No wonder Murdoch’s happy: the News Corp horse had already bolted”

  1. Mabel Horrocks

    RT @leftfootfwd: No wonder Murdoch's happy: the News Corp horse had already bolted: http://bit.ly/eG0AfJ writes @MartinJEMoore

  2. william

    As I have already posted elsewhere, this is not a done deal.First, Hunt’s decision could be subjected to judicial review,and overturned.Second,Newscorp may not offer what the institutions want,£9/share.Third,future revelations re phone hacking may be too much for everybody.This will run for 6-9 months.

  3. sean gittins

    RT @leftfootfwd: No wonder Murdoch's happy: the News Corp horse had already bolted: http://bit.ly/eG0AfJ writes @MartinJEMoore

  4. Martin Moore

    The News Corp horse had already bolted, post by me @leftfootfwd http://bit.ly/eG0AfJ

  5. Jacquie R

    Excellent points, Martin. At this rate, the much needed changes to the law will probably be far too late for this deal(assuming it does go ahead, further to William’s points above).
    and too little for the future. What’s needed is a comprehensive review of ownership rules and regulation right now, which can pave the way for retrogressive adjustments. This is why we at DemocracyFail have been campaigning for a media commission.

    Don’t quite share your view about the BBC’s prospects, however. The way BSkyB is building up already, with Sky Atlantic etc, I can only see this diminishing the BBC, which will be increasingly unable to compete in the commercial market. Whatever Jeremy Hunt may say about the sancitity of the BBC, a broadcaster told to use the word “savings” instead of “cuts” is clearly not a huge favourite with this government.

  6. Fabian

    Murdoch conceded more in this bid than he would’ve liked, though- in the event of a successful takeover (not a done deal, Newscorp will have to offer substantially more than 700p a share), he has to spin off sky news, which can’t have newscorp employees on the board. Newscorp will retain its’ 39% share, which means Murdoch will have a vested interest in its’ success.

  7. Daniel Pitt

    No wonder Murdoch's happy! News Corp horse already bolted http://bit.ly/eG0AfJ #ConDemNation

  8. Jacquie R

    Sorry – meant “retrospective”, not “retrogressive.” #MrsMalaprop

  9. David Mullen

    This is a man who has tainted a number of so called democracies to such an extent that all political parties in those countries put forward right wing “pro business” policies to consolidate the position of a very small and increasingly wealthier elite.

  10. Mr. Sensible

    william, I hope you’re right.

    With regard to the BBC, as I said last night I think critics of the BBC who support this deal are absolute hippocrits.

  11. Mr. Sensible

    it’s not often that I agree with Guido, but on this occasion I think he put it perfectly.
    http://order-order.com/2011/03/03/hunt-says-yes/

  12. Tony Thomas

    No wonder Murdoch’s happy: the News Corp horse had already bolted http://tinyurl.com/4e3t2ck

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    […] and a baddie trade blows in ultra slow motion with Swan Lake-like finesse. The process of the News Corp/BSkyB acquisition similarly slowly, if with less balletic […]

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