The New Statesman’s rolling politics blog


Ed Vaizey's Murdoch muddle

The shadow culture minister's BBC gaffe

Appearing on the Daily Politics today, Tory MP Ed Vaizey denied claims of a 'pact' between Rupert Murdoch and the Conservatives and even suggested that it was Labour policy that most closely reflected the media mogul's interests.

Vaizey pointed to the government's plan to "top-slice" the licence fee as evidence that it was prepared to follow Murdoch's wishes and cut the BBC down to size. He said:

If you're Murdoch and you want to do down the BBC, if that's your strategy, you should vote Labour.

In fact, Murdoch's News Corporation is fiercely opposed to top-slicing on the grounds that it would stifle competition by leading more commercial companies to become dependent on public money.

Speaking in Edinburgh earlier this year, James Murdoch declared: "I think contestable funding would be catastrophic for the sector. It atomises the state dependence (of media companies)." He added that the current licence fee system at least "enables you to put a spotlight on the totality of the intervention".

The Murdochs may want to see a "much, much smaller" BBC but they do not want to fight a war on two fronts.

It wasn't particularly wise of Vaizey to discuss top-slicing while simultaneously ridiculing claims of a 'deal' between News Corp and the Tories. His party originally supported top-slicing but after, among other things, intensive lobbying by Sky, it reversed its position.

Let's hope the shadow media minister does his homework before he ventures onto a BBC sofa again.


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