The Sun and Labour: Who gets hurt the most?

How best should the Labour party respond to its jilting by the Sun.

The Sun’s abandonment of Labour has been addressed in different ways by left-leaning bloggers.

Soho Politico sees an opportunity to question what Tory leader David Cameron has offered – and whether the Tories’ willingness to scrap OfCOM and usher in an era of lighter regulation and more Fox News-esque partisan TV is quite English enough for us.

Certainly, it is hard to see this move as an example of News Corporation’s confidence and political competence. It cannot be comfortable for them to read Charlie Beckett, among many others, pointing out that The Sun is not the force it was.

Following James Murdoch’s speech to the Edinburgh Television Festival, the inept way that The Sun switched – not even getting its own story straight in Scotland – will raise further questions among News Corp’s shareholders.

Sadie Smith has a funny post up about how Labour should respond to this ‘jilting’ – should Labour beg The Sun to change its mind, or should the party go all Gloria Gaynor on them?

Sadie neglects to mention the third option, namely to get even and not angry. One possible way of doing this is to follow the advice from Bad Conscience, that Labour has nothing to lose by reawakening the question of media concentration – a long-standing (pre-Blair) obsession of Labour’s.

There are easier, more concrete, opportunities to do this. Last week, Left Foot Forward published a list of the various free-rides that new Labour gave to BSkyB. All of these options could be credibly threatened as pre-election measures. Labour could apply the levy that every other major European Union country does on boxes like the one used for Sky+.

The Government could allow the main TV channels to apply the kind of re-transmission fees that apply in almost every other EU country. There is no reason why BBC, ITV and Channel Four programmes should provide the free carrot that BSkyB get in attracting over £3 billion in subscriptions revenues.

In the 1980s, the UK inserted the words ‘where practicable’ in EU regulations (pdf, p31) that were designed to ensure that future multi-channel broadcasters would make programmes instead of importing content from America.

This qualification was used to excuse BSkyB from the obligations that ensure that other major European broadcasters like Canal+ actually make programmes.

The justification for allowing this exception was that it would stymie new entrants into the market. But as subscriptions now account for more revenue than advertising in UK broadcasting (with BSkyB enjoying a massive monopoly position here) now would be a good moment for a UK regulator to start asking what is practicable, and what is not.

7 Responses to “The Sun and Labour: Who gets hurt the most?”

  1. Jon Walker

    There may be good reason to reawakening the question of media concentration, but surely the fact that the Sun has changed sides isn’t one of them? Any rules which made sense when the Sun was supporting Labour make the same amount of sense when the Sun opposes Labour, do they not?

  2. Rory

    Well said, Mr Walker. ‘All of these options could be credibly threatened as pre-election measures.’ This is the sort of thing one would expect to see in an internal New Labour e-mail, not on an ‘evidence-based’ website.

    I think it is disgraceful (though perhaps very telling) that LFF decided to print this bile. Are you planning to commission any articles from Derek Draper?

  3. willstraw

    The proposals to apply the levy to Sky were set out before The Sun switched to the Tories: //www.leftfootforward.org/2009/09/labours-bskyb-windfall/

    This article provided a summary of blog opinion (which readers will know we do from time to time) and summarised the ideas set out in the blog post listed above.

    Interested to know whether Jon or Rory have any thoughts on the Sky levy idea?

  4. Rory

    No, the paragraph I quoted from was suggesting ‘measures’, not summarising blog opinion. I don’t think our criticisms can so easily be brushed off.

    I really don’t know if the Sky levy is a good idea or not. I certainly don’t think News International should be given special treatment as happened during the Blair-Campbell era and will probably happen under Cameron.

    But I do not think any such decision should be taken to punish News International for withdrawing support for Labour, which is what is being advocated not just by the bloggers the author quotes, but by the author himself.

  5. Ivan Pope

    All the suggestions make some sense – if Labour win the next election. If not, it’s just whistling in the wind, and pathetically late for that. What a corrupt system we have made for ourselves.

  6. Paul Evans

    There is no point in discussing the question of funding policy in broadcasting without founding your arguments upon what media owners will veto and what they won’t.

    I’d richly love to read anyone who’s prepared to get into the policy questions – I did that last week without getting any response here.

    //www.leftfootforward.org/2009/09/labours-bskyb-windfall/

    The reason that I suggest that they should be ‘threatened’ is because they will finally move the debate away from the question of top-slicing the BBC (an option that I don’t believe that anyone now takes seriously, though that fact that it hasn’t been formally discounted is creating something of a block in the whole debate).

    I’d also suggest that the reality is that News Corp the Tories have offered a different combination of threats and cajolery to get an imprudently early commitment from News Corp. If you’d like to find someone writing on this subject under the pretense that this isn’t the deciding factor, there are plenty of other places to go for that line of reasoning.

  7. Blanca Lynn

    The Sun and Labour: Who gets hurt the most? | Left Foot Forward //tinyurl.com/yeskl8x

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