'Cut down to size' means small enough not to threaten private media interests
Today the Times newspaper, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, and an arm of his global media empire that includes Fox News, a chunk of Sky TV and newspapers in the UK, the US and Australia, has called for an end to media monopoly… by the BBC.
First, some background.
The general election campaign saw media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers sound the alarm for a free press.
An editorial in his Sun newspaper on April 24 warned the Labour party was planning to censor newspapers if it won the election.
It cited Labour’s pledge to enact the Leveson inquiry’s recommendations and to cap media ownership to prevent monopolies as proof of a partisan agenda. It said that unlike the Tories, ‘Labour actively seeks to silence critics’:
“During all the years the Sun backed them from 1997, Labour said nothing about the size of our company.
Now, as a direct result of the Sun’s opposition, it has sworn to use the law to dismantle News UK if it wins power.
Dozens of innocent Sun journalists, later cleared, were prosecuted on the say-so of a man now standing for Labour.
Meanwhile, the party vows to enforce the Leveson inquiry’s conclusions. It is all aimed at papers such as the Sun.
This is what sinister state censorship REALLY looks like.”
Now that the election is over and media ownership caps are likely off the table, Murdoch’s papers have changed their tune.
On May 12, the same editorial space in the Sun sounded like this:
“After decades of BBC bias against the Tories, subtle and blatant, it’s payback time.
The new culture secretary will, we hope, pull the plug on the bloated corporation’s smug Left-wing agenda […]
The fee should be shrunk so it focuses on first class original TV and radio.
It must be regularly scrutinised for quality, value for money and neutrality.
If it fails, the licence fee is axed. (emphasis original)
And so with the Murdoch-owned Times. Columnist and historian Michael Burleigh writes in its opinion pages today that the BBC ‘resembles an expansionary empire’. He writes:
“The problem is with the default BBC stance on immigration, Israel, nationalism, the EU, the ‘Red’ heartlands of the US, bankers, hedge funds and the City […]”
The piece is part of a right-wing drive to cut the broadcaster ‘down to size’, which probably means ‘a size small enough not to threaten the business interests of private media corporations’.
The Sun more or less spelled this out, complaining the Beeb uses public money to ‘intrude into markets where private firms – local newspapers, for example – should thrive instead’.
Or national ones. As Burleigh writes: “The BBC is not an online newspaper. We have a diverse and vibrant national press that does the job very well […]”
In the end, you either oppose ‘media empires’ and monopolies or you do not. Any attempt to create a genuinely freer market must address both public and privately-owned media to be taken seriously.
Meanwhile, there is something ludicrous in complaining about ‘sinister state censorship’ of a partisan kind when your own interests are threatened and then cheer on ‘payback time’ for the BBC along equally partisan lines.
Especially if you own one of the largest media empires in the world.
Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter
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