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.

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Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.