A Sideswipe At A Global Media Baron: By Kevin Rooney
Our very own MP Margaret Ritchie this week played her part in showing political opposition to Rupert Murdoch and the News Corp company in their bid to takeover BSkyB.
The South Down MP voted with the three main parties in Westminster in requesting the takeover offer to be withdrawn – News Corp subsequently bowed to this political pressure and withdrew the offer.
In voting with the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour, Margaret Ritchie did the honourable thing. Many would say Murdoch should not run a newsstand never mind what would have been the biggest commercial broadcasting corporation in the UK.
The monoply which would have been afforded to News Corp if the takeover had proceeded would have completely skewed the British media market. In a stroke of a pen some 80% of the market would have been controlled by BBC and BSkyB – this concentration of power is not the way forward for the media in any country, in any liberal democracy, never mind the UK.
Initially, all Murdoch was waiting on was the green light from Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt and he would have had his hands on BSkyB. Then the drip-drip of revelations surrounding the News of the World and phone-hacking became a tsunami and put the skids on the takeover.
A few celebrites were the only noteworthy victims but once missing teenagers, armed forces families etc became targeted the tidal wave of opposition grew. In recent days stories of medical records and bank accounts of former Prime Ministers being illegally accessed have come to light.
All these allegations go back about a decade or so and at the weekend put paid to the jobs of 120 people at the NOTW – this callous act was to keep the ‘beyond the pale’ Rebekah Brooks in the job as Chief Executive of News International, the UK division of News Corp.
If all the allegations, counter allegations etc were to be detailed by your esteemed columnist we would be here for a very, very long time. So we will not go there.
Instead let me recall the comments of former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating who remarked some time ago: “Murdoch is a big bastard. The only way to see him off is to be a bigger bastard’. Combined political pressure was that ‘big bastard”.
But everybody will need to continue to be singing off the same hymn sheet otherwise Murdoch will get his little hands on the prized pot of BSkyB further down the line.
One only has to look at his worldwide acquisitions to show how damaging it would be for Rupert Murdoch to have his way in the future- Murdoch’s News Corp own the right-wing, Obama-bashing, tea party-supporting Fox News in the US. Fox News even suffered the indignity of being exposed in the docu-film ‘Outfoxed’ exposing its biased agenda.
As I am typing this, the FBI in the United States has said News Corps is under investigaton for the hacking of phones of relatives of the 9/11 terrorist atrocity a decade ago. American authorities recently dragged former IMF chief Dominic Strauss-Kahn off a Paris-bound flight and stuck him in the notorious New York Rikers prison over what now seems ‘unfounded’ rape allegations from a hotel maid. I wonder if Mr Murdoch is sweating a bit tonight with regards the 9/11 phone-hacking allegations?
So, if the deal is for now, it’s gone! What does it mean? The monopolistic nature of such coperate gaints as News Corp will fade. Monopolies are bad for any market never mind the multi-billion deals agreed in the world of media. The days of media barons pulling the political strings will hopefully ebb away. Let’s not forget Murdoch does not operate on his own. The late Robert Maxwell led the way along with current day ones such as Murdoch and Richard Desmond, who owns Channel 5. Will Mr Desmond be sweating a bit??
It might herald a shift in the balance of power and if so even out British newspapers. They would still be entitled to take a political viewpoint and there’s nothing wrong with that. But at least they would not be doing it at the whim of a very old man in offices in New York!!
Nobody can forget how Neill Kinnock was done out of power by the Sun’s infamous ‘lightbulb’ front page in 1992 – five years later and they supported Labour for the first time and then forced policy change for support in the 2005 election. From a neutral point of view, this stinks from high heaven. Newspapers are just newspapers – they should not be allowed to wield this power and infilitrate fragile political minds with nonsense against politicans who do not support them.
On a final note, David Cameron has had his first big crisis. Tony Blair infamously lost public support after the Iraq debacle. Likewise, Gordon Brown over the economy. Now Cameron must continue to show the moral courage to see off Rupert Murdoch and company once and for all.