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Why media conglomerates should be broken up

based on a WEF photo of Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch addresses a session of the World Economic Forum in DavosThe hacking trials aren’t even half the issue. The hard, unavoidable fact remains that the power of the Murdoch press – the real unspoken stain behind the Brooks-Coulson trials – is undiminished and has still not been broken. It is best illustrated by the run-up of events to the long-planned Murdoch campaign to take over BSkyB, a scheme that would have added some £8bn to the Murdoch empire as well as giving him a virtual stranglehold over the British media.

It began with Murdoch’s calculation in 2009 that a switch of the Sun to the Tories would make them indebted to him – perhaps even outlined in an informal deal – over his BSkyB objective. The game plan then began with James Murdoch meeting Cameron at a hotel in London in September 2009 to tell him that the Sun was switching sides.

The Sun then embarked on a sustained battery of hostile reporting clearly aimed to drive the Brown government out of office. At the same time all the Murdoch newspapers engaged in a coordinated campaign attacking BSkyB and Ofcom. Once the election was over, the first person welcomed to No.10 by Cameron was Rupert Murdoch. Then when, by chance (or was it a plot?), Vince Cable was tricked into making some confrontational comments about Murdoch, Cameron was able to switch the key role of press regulation to his close ally, Jeremy Hunt. With Cameron’s prompting, he then gave every assistance he could, behind the scenes, to facilitate the Murdoch takeover. He even allowed his special adviser to act as a back channel to tell Murdoch exactly what was going on in government over the bid, whilst claiming (incredulously) that he knew nothing about what his special adviser was up to (shades of Rebekah Brooks over hacking).

Finally, Hunt – surprise, surprise – formally waved through the deal as DCMS secretary, and it would have gone through within days had not the Millie Dowler hacking saga abruptly upended the carefully planned conspiracy and caused Parliament, skilfully led by Ed Miliband, to denounce it.

That power of the Murdoch machine, though dented, remains intact. Leveson’s proposed independent media regulation was blocked and a faux IPSO body (a revived Press Complaints Commission in disguise) substituted by the right-wing Tory tabloids. Scotland Yard has cynically continued to try to silence police whistleblowers who expose their leaders’ role in the whole scandal. And politicians useful to Murdoch continue to be invited to dine with him, and continue to accept.

If there is a strong case for the break-up of the banks, there is an even stronger case for the break-up of the press behemoths. No person or organisation should be allowed to control more than one daily and one Sunday paper (Murdoch has 4). No cross-ownership should be allowed between the broadcast and the print media, to enhance diversity. No ownership of British newspapers should be allowed by anyone who is not a British citizen. There should be a formal right of reply operating in all newspapers. Above all, there should be strong fiscal and regulatory incentives to phase out tycoon ownership in favour of independent trusts.

One Comment

  1. jeffrey davies says:

    maggies world she promised you the world yet for that few who control all you see leaving that door open has left the devils out they cant control themselves you see they want they take or devide yet now you see maggies ways wasn’t the right way look at bbc how can they the government get to stop the news but they do when its the peasants that pay this fee not they has they even get us to pay that lovely isn’t it gagged by all but until our labour party rids itself of the tb then nothing will change nothing jeff3

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