Beeb's local media pledge is spun into a cut-shy waste of money
In its relentless campaign to gut the BBC, the Murdoch press is unlikely to welcome any speech that doesn’t involve waving a white flag.
So the response from Murdoch’s Sun today to BBC director general Tony Hall’s pledge to support local media with 100 reporters is no surprise.
The proposals led coverage of the news everywhere else, but were tucked in at the end of the Sun’s story, headlined:
BEEB ‘BURIES’ CUTS
“BBC director general Tony Hall will today fail to spell out where cuts can be made that will pay the £750million bill for making the TV licences free for over 75s.”
Eventually it describes the policy, but as a ‘multi-million pound spend’.
Scrutiny of public services is welcome. But is holding the powerful to account what motivates the Sun today?
The context provides a clue.
An editorial in the Sun’s stablemate the Times today (called ‘Broadcast Behemoth’), repeats the line that the BBC is an ’empire’ with its fingers in too many pies. As before, pressure on local newspapers to compete with the BBC regionally is used as a cover for the paper’s real agenda.
As the Sun made clear in July, the BBC is seen as ‘distorting the market for everyone else’, meaning local papers.
But of course, the real market rival the Sun is concerned about is the media empire of Rupert Murdoch.
Let’s just remind ourselves what that global empire includes.
Murdoch owns the Sun, the Times, a chunk of Sky TV, 20th Century Fox, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Australian, and until 2011 the News of the World (RIP). He also happens to own a number of local newspapers in Australia and the US.
It is in this light we should read claims like this, again from today’s Times:
“Instead of cosmetic palliative, the corporation should decide now on either charging a subscription for its online news or getting out of the publishing business. There is no third way.”
Might this sage advice have something to do with the coming removal of the paywall on the Sun’s website? Or indeed, the place of the very same Times newspaper in ‘the publishing business’?
It’s often wise to suspect the charge of ‘imperialism’ from so powerful a source. It may be a simple case of ‘Hey, look over there!’
Because any serious discussion of media ownership and competition would have to include both the BBC and the Murdoch stable.
That the latter keeps abusing its position to spin the news in its favour and argue for a break up of its rivals is why we need a public service broadcaster in the first place.
Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter
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