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Ask your MP to act on Murdoch's takeover of BSkyB

Luke Crawley stands to address the packed meeeting at the House of Commons. Luke Crawley speaking at the House of Commons on 12 January 2011. Pic: Guy Smallman.

18 January 2011

BECTU is urging all members to seek their MP's support for calls on Jeremy Hunt to refer News Corporation's BSkyB takeover to the Competition Commission.

Action is easy and takes a matter of minutes. Visit 38 Degrees and enter your postcode to email your MP directly. If you have yet to sign the petition please do so now.

It is also vital, says BECTU, that the culture minister publish the report prepared by Ofcom which he has been holding since 31 December.

"Once the referral is secured, BECTU will continue its support for the campaign against the takeover which threatens to narrow the range of voices and opinion expressed in the UK's media," said BECTU's assistant general secretary, Luke Crawley.

Last week (12 January) MPs and union members attended a meeting in the House of Commons about media ownership. The meeting was a further step in the campaign against the proposed sale of 60.9% of BSkyB to Rupert Murdoch.

Speakers from BECTU, the NUJ and other groups set out the case.

 Luke Crawley told the meeting:

“Media plurality is vital in a democracy and this sale would give too much control of national papers, satellite TV and radio to one man, Rupert Murdoch.

"Jeremy Hunt must accept the recommendation from Ofcom and refer this bid to the Competition Commission at once.”

News Corporation, through News International, already owns The Times, The Sunday Times, The News of the World and The Sun which amounts to 37% of the UK press. BSkyB owns Sky News, is the producer of Channel 5 News and provides editorial content for Independent Radio News.

Too much power in the hands of one man

"If the sale goes through then one media company, News Corporation, would reach 52% of the population via satellite TV, newspapers and radio. This company would be under the control of one man, Rupert Murdoch, who is a citizen and resident of another country," Luke Crawley told the packed meeting in Parliament on 12 January.

Concern for people who work at BSkyB

"BECTU is also concerned about what the sale could mean to those members who are employed at BSkyB. Both BECTU and the NUJ have many members working at Sky on news and sports programmes and if Murdoch were to take control then by his own admission there would be drastic changes.

"When speaking before a Parliamentary Committee in 2008 Murdoch went so far as to say that Sky would be more like Fox News except that “nobody at Sky listens to me”. That is because under the current ownership there is an independent board of directors which is  able to preserve that independence because News International is a minority shareholder.

“If Murdoch comes to own all of BSkyB it will give him too much power and influence which will be bad for pluralism of the media and bad for our democratic society,” Luke Crawley insisted.

The NUJ's Jeremy Dear, speaking at the same meeting, said that Jeremy Hunt, was the wrong person to be taking the decisions over the bid.

"It may be that Vince Cable had overplayed his hand by declaring his deep-seated opposition to Murdoch. But Jeremy Hunt is on record as saying: “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...”. He [Jeremy Hunt] also has publicly praised Murdoch for apparently doing “more to create variety and choice in British TV than any other single person”. A surprising statement since apart from sport and news, very little of Sky’s current output is actually original programming that is made in the United Kingdom."

Private meetings

Jeremy Dear went on to highlight Hunt’s private informal meetings with executives from News Corp. The first of these took place in June 2010 after Jeremy Hunt was appointed to the DCMS and included James Murdoch, the chief executive of News Corp in Asia and Europe, and separately Jeremy Darroch, chief executive of BSkyB. Both meetings were un-minuted and without civil servants being allowed to be present. Even more worryingly since he received the report from Ofcom at the end of December, his department has been having meetings with News Corp to discuss the Ofcom report and he has refused to rule out the possibility of meetings between himself and the two companies.

The government will respond to pressure

David Babbs, executive director of 38 Degrees, urged those present to continue to campaign as he believed that government policy could be changed if enough pressure was brought to bear.

Granville Williams, representing the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, reminded the meeting about what happened in 1981 when Rupert Murdoch was trying to buy The Times. Instead of a referral to the Competition Commission, the then Conservative government fudged the issue and waved the sale through. Granville Williams urged the meeting to ensure that did not happen this time.

It was agreed by all present that the next target was to put pressure on Jeremy Hunt to refer the bid to the Competition Commission.

Urge your MP to support the referral to the Competition Commission

Sign the petition protesting at the planned takeover.

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