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BSkyB: campaigners urge direct referral to Competition Commission

James Murdoch on stage in Edinburgh with Peter Bazalgette At the 2009 Edinburgh TV Festival, James Murdoch described the BBC's ambitions as "chilling" and said "the only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit."

24 December 2010

The NUJ issued a release yesterday (23 December) on behalf of a representative group of media campaigners and academics. The release calls for the Ofcom report on Rupert Murdoch's planned takeover of BSkyB to be referred directly to the Competition Commission. The release states that culture and sport secretary of state, Jeremy Hunt MP, is biased in favour of BSkyB. The release is endorsed by BECTU general secretary, Gerry Morrissey.

The call is backed by a new petition launched by 38 Degrees which will be submitted on 31 December. Please sign the petition

NUJ Press Release, 23 December 2010

Jeremy Hunt should not be allowed to make the decision over whether Rupert Murdoch can take full control of BSkyB

 
We welcomed the decision by Business Secretary Vince Cable MP to initiate a public interest test into News Corporation’s proposal to take total control of BSkyB by acquiring the remaining 60.9% of BSkyB shares it does not own. We remain concerned about the implications of the proposals on media plurality and ownership in the UK.
 
We support the principle of media pluralism as a necessary component of any democratic society, in which the range of opinions and information are made available through the media.
 
News Corporation is a global media corporation spanning film, television, cable, satellite, newspapers, magazines and book publishing with assets valued in September 2010 at £33 ($56) billion and annual revenues of £20.5 ($33) billion. It is active in the United States, Continental Europe, United Kingdom, Australia, Asia and Latin America.  
 
BSkyB and the UK arm of News Corporation’s publishing operation, News International, are already the largest companies in their respective sectors.
 
Jeremy Hunt MP, the Government’s Culture Secretary, may be delighted to be given the power to decide whether he should stop the merger but if Vince Cable is inappropriate to make any quasi-judicial decision, then so is Jeremy Hunt - it does not adhere to the spirit of impartiality to transfer the decision from one politician who has expressed an opinion, to another who has simply expressed the opposite opinion:
 
Jeremy Hunt has said “It does seem to me that News Corp do control Sky already, so it isn’t clear to me that in terms of media plurality there is a substantive change, but I don’t want to second-guess what regulators might decide.”
 
Jeremy Hunt has also said: “Rather than worry about Rupert Murdoch owning another TV channel, what we should recognise is that he has probably done more to create variety and choice in British TV than any other single person because of his huge investment in setting up Sky TV, which, at one point, was losing several million pounds a day. We would be the poorer and wouldn't be saying that British TV is the envy of the world if it hadn't been for him being prepared to take that commercial risk. We need to encourage that kind of investment.”
 
We are therefore calling on the Government to acknowledge the widespread support amongst the public to limit the power and influence of Rupert Murdoch's media empire and to agree to a full-scale Competition Commission investigation into News Corporation’s proposal to take total control of BSkyB.
 

  • Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary
  • Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ Deputy General Secretary
  • David Babbs, 38 Degrees
  • Gerry Morrissey, BECTU General Secretary
  • John F. Smith, Musicians' Union General Secretary 
  • Professor Keith Ewing, President, Institute of Employment Rights
  • Professor Natalie Fenton, Co-Director Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre
  • Dr Des Freedman, Author ‘The Politics of Media Policy’
  • Dr Hugh Mackay, The Open University
  • James Curran, Professor of Communications Goldsmiths College, University of London
  • Professor Julian Petley, Chair - Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom
  • Ludek Stavinoha, Doctoral researcher at the University of Strathclyde - School of Applied Social Sciences
  • Dr Jonathan Hardy, University of East London
  • Dr Dan Jackson Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications, The Media  School Bournemouth  University
  • Larry Herman, NUJ London Photographers’ branch 
  • Joy Johnson, Lecturer - City University of London
  • Granville Williams, journalist and media commentator
  • Dr Aeron Davis, Department of Media and Communications Goldsmiths College London
  • Professor Tom O’Malley, Professor of Media Studies Aberystwyth University
  • Aidan White, International/European Federation of Journalists General Secretary
  • Zsuzsi Yardley, Unite delegate to the national council of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom
  • Dr Julian Matthews, Lecturer and Course Director - University of Leicester
  • Gary Herman, NUJ New Media Industrial Council
  • Richard Simcox, National Press Officer, Public and Commercial Services Union

We have also launched a public petition with 38 Degrees today demanding that Jeremy Hunt passes Ofcom's report straight to the Competition Commission for a full-scale investigation. http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/Jeremy-Hunt-not-impartial 
 
The NUJ in partnership with others has organised a public meeting in Parliament to oppose the Murdoch BSkyB merger: all welcome. Wednesday 12 January 6.30-8pm, Committee Room 10, House of Commons. RSVP: campaigns@nuj.org.uk

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