Could News Corp lose its Fox TV licences?

Murdoch's US interests are coming under greater scrutiny.

Since the Murdochs returned to the front pages, Labour has taken every opportunity to focus attention on Ofcom's investigation into whether  News Corporation is a "fit and proper" owner of the broadcasting licence held by BSkyB. In her numerous interviews on Jeremy Hunt last week, Harriet Harman persistently returned to this subject. Today, on The World At One, Ed Miliband urged Ofcom to "add urgency" to its investigation (the regulator replied that it would not be "rushed into a knee-jerk reaction"). The resultant impression is that Labour is determined for News Corp to lose its lucrative 39.1 per cent stake in BSKyB, a £6.6bn company.

Yesterday's MPs' report, which leads today's editions of the New York Times and the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal, means that News Corp's US broadcasting interests have also come under scrutiny for the first time since the scandal broke. A political watchdog, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has written to federal regulators calling on them to revoke the company's 27 Fox broadcast licences. The letter states:

The House of Commons report makes clear that both Rupert and James Murdoch were complicit in New Corp.’s illegal activities.  If the Murdochs don’t meet the British standards of character test, it is hard to see how they can meet the American standard.

Under Federal Communications Commission regulations, only people with "good character who serve the public interest" can run broadcast frequencies.

Some will dismiss the letter as a fringe protest by an anti-Murdoch group but it's worth remembering that most on the right said much the same about the Guardian's investigation into phone-hacking. If Ofcom concludes that News Corp is not a "fit and proper" shareholder of BSkyB it is no longer unthinkable that the company's US interests could come under threat.

Fox News Chairman & CEO Roger Ailes. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.