A slow motion death for critics of NewsCorp/BSkyB deal

Martin Moore, director of the Media Standards Trust, reacts to the news Jeremy Hunt is allowing just seven more days' consultation on the NewsCorp/BSkyB deal.

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

John Woo’s films are famous for their balletic fight sequences. A goodie 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 grace.


Just when you think the decision will be made, the blade skewered into the gut, it glances away and the fight continues. But each time the end gets closer, and all the time we – the audience – know how it will finish.

Seven more days, we are now told, until a decision is taken. Seven more days of ‘consultation’ before the Secretary of State approves the deal or passes it on to the Competition Commission. Though, realistically, approval has been in little doubt since Vince Cable lost responsibility for making it, following his impolitic remarks to two undercover Telegraph journalists.

As time goes on the battle is fought on more and more limited space. This (final?) consultation is centred entirely on Sky News. Though important, this is like fighting over the inscription on the cup once the game has already been won. Sky News is one element of huge deal that will alter the UKs media landscape for the next two decades.

Even on this limited territory there is good reason to believe the commitments News Corp has made will only provide limited protection for plurality. These commitments are similar to those made when Murdoch acquired The Times, and when he acquired the Wall Street Journal. In both cases those commitments were not sufficient for protecting either news organisation’s independence. Moreover, Sky News will remain physically within NewsCorp. It will rely on about 85% of its funding from NewsCorp. It will be accessed via the NewsCorp/BSkyB platform.

Imagine this scenario. Sky News continues, apparently unchanged, for the next few years. Its economic position then deteriorates, it is unable to find outside funding (because of the peculiarity of its funding status) and it looks like it could go under. NewsCorp offers to bail out the channel, with the consequence that it acquires over 50% share. The decision as to whether the bailout goes through is, as things stand, in the hands of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, currently the Rt. Hon Jeremy Hunt MP. Given the choice of the channel going under, or it continuing with even less independence, s/he reluctantly agrees the bail out.

We are where we are. Were this a John Woo movie then critics of this deal would still be alive but the blade would be coming, ever so slowly but inevitably, towards their throats.

18 Responses to “A slow motion death for critics of NewsCorp/BSkyB deal”

  1. Pucci Dellanno

    A slow motion death for critics of NewsCorp/BSkyB deal: http://bit.ly/lhzSeU writes @NewsMatters director @MartinJEMoore

  2. Trakgalvis

    RT @leftfootfwd: A slow motion death for critics of NewsCorp/BSkyB deal: http://bit.ly/lhzSeU writes @NewsMatters director @MartinJEMoore

  3. Martin Moore

    Slow motion death for critics of NewsCorp/BSkyB deal – post by me @leftfootforward http://ow.ly/5tLFT #Murdoch #BSkyB

  4. Daniel Elton

    RT @leftfootfwd: A slow motion death for critics of NewsCorp/BSkyB deal http://t.co/NieMTu6

  5. Charlie Harris FCIJ

    A slow motion death for critics of NewsCorp/BSkyB deal | Left Foot Forward http://fb.me/11rifCcn7

  6. Louise Inwood

    Slow motion death for critics of NewsCorp/BSkyB deal – post by me @leftfootforward http://ow.ly/5tLFT #Murdoch #BSkyB

  7. Philip John

    Slow motion death for critics of NewsCorp/BSkyB deal – post by me @leftfootforward http://ow.ly/5tLFT #Murdoch #BSkyB

  8. MediaStandardsTrust

    RT @leftfootfwd: A slow motion death for critics of NewsCorp/BSkyB deal: http://bit.ly/lhzSeU writes @NewsMatters director @MartinJEMoore

  9. Tim Brooks

    Slow motion death for critics of NewsCorp/BSkyB deal – post by me @leftfootforward http://ow.ly/5tLFT #Murdoch #BSkyB

  10. Anon E Mouse

    Hans Christian Anderson’s got nothing on this nonsense.

    “Imagine this scenario.” WHAT???

    This is supposed to be an EVIDENCE based blog I thought – let’s all “imagine” nothing and stick to the facts please instead of playing to your audience….

  11. Hans

    Mouse,

    do you work for the tory central office or nick robinson in disguise?

  12. Martin Moore

    @ Anon E Mouse: For ‘Imagine this scenario’ read ‘There is a good chance of this happening in the next few years on the basis of the evidence available’ given that: there is little reason for outsiders to invest in Sky News given the nature of its relationship with NewsCorp and its funding; the channel is expensive and is not self-sufficient; the UILs (undertakings in lieu) only last for 10 years, so every year that goes by they become weaker; and any decision to allow such a bail out would – under current conditions – need to be made by the Secretary of State (as opposed to a regulator or other body). Therefore it is not hard to imagine this scenario given the evidence available

  13. Paul Odtaa

    June 2010: Sky bought the Virgin Media Television unit for £160m, giving Sky ownership of the channels Living, Livingit, Challenge, Challenge Jackpot, Bravo, Bravo 2 and Virgin1.

    Already a number of these channels have been downgraded as they compete directly with News Corp channels.

    The deal with Virgin also reduces competition as Virgin are now committed to promoting Sky products such as premium films or HD.

    This anti-competition alone should be enough to block the deal.

    The fact that New Corp has no respect for agreements eg when it has purchased newspapers; the law – when it has not fully co-operated with the police on the phone hacking scandal and has contempt for parliament – ie Rebekah Brooks refusal to attend parliament when requested suggests suggests total contempt for British law and order. This strongly suggests that the company should not be allowed to extend its holding in British media.

    On the hacking side – I am concerned that breaking into communications between politicians and police investigations should be investigated as espionage and perverting the course of justice. Again this would make the company unfit to extend its media control.

  14. Political, public and economic screw being turned on NotW | Left Foot Forward

    […] stood by him for so long), and the Murdoch takeover deal, which culture secretary Jeremy Hunt will rule on this […]

  15. Stuart

    The Jeremy Hunt thing should recontextualise the Vince Cable/BSkyB saga somewhat: http://t.co/L6UoxpBQ #PMQs

  16. Jackie

    The Jeremy Hunt thing should recontextualise the Vince Cable/BSkyB saga somewhat: http://t.co/L6UoxpBQ #PMQs

  17. Martin Steel

    The Jeremy Hunt thing should recontextualise the Vince Cable/BSkyB saga somewhat: http://t.co/L6UoxpBQ #PMQs

  18. Irene Short

    The Jeremy Hunt thing should recontextualise the Vince Cable/BSkyB saga somewhat: http://t.co/L6UoxpBQ #PMQs

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