Will Cameron cave in to Murdoch again?

Rupert Murdoch’s bid to take full control of Sky raises grave public-interest concerns.

Rupert Murdoch's bid to take full ownership of BSkyB (he owns a 39 per cent stake) provides the coalition with its first big test on media ownership. David Cameron will want to avoid any suggestion that he pre-approved this deal in return for the support of Murdoch's newspapers, but he may struggle to do so.

We know that Murdoch visited Downing Street just a week after Cameron was appointed Prime Minister. Was News Corp's plan to take full control of Sky discussed? It would be surprising if it wasn't.

There is also no doubt that Murdoch timed his bid to coincide with the election of a government more sympathetic to calls for media deregulation. As I've previously noted, Cameron has already appeased Murdoch by agreeing to abolish Ofcom and potentially freeze or cut BBC funding.

The Lib Dems, however, may not see things the same way. It was the Murdoch-owned Sun, after all, that launched a series of crude, demagogic attacks on Nick Clegg after his success in the first leaders' televised debate. And, as David Prosser notes in today's Independent, it is Vince Cable, as Business Secretary, who will have to provide regulatory approval for any deal.

From one perspective, there is no decent objection to Murdoch acquiring full control of Sky. It was Murdoch who invested millions in the company, almost bankrupting News Corp in the process, and who had the foresight to recognise the immense potential of satellite television.

But the extent to which Sky will interact with the other divisions of Murdoch's media empire raises obvious public-interest concerns. As Prosser writes:

You won't see print journalists from beyond the News International stable being used as pundits on Sky News, for example, and it can't be long before Sky subscribers are offered special deals on the newspapers' internet operations, now they are being moved behind the paywall.

In a digital age, in which Sky produces huge amounts of text-based content and the Times produces ever more visual content, the boundaries are increasingly blurred.

It is for this reason that Cable must order Ofcom to review the takeover and its implications for British media. Cameron must not be allowed to cave in to Murdoch again.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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New Digital Editor: Serena Kutchinsky

The New Statesman appoints Serena Kutchinsky as Digital Editor.

Serena Kutchinsky is to join the New Statesman as digital editor in September. She will lead the expansion of the New Statesman across a variety of digital platforms.

Serena has over a decade of experience working in digital media and is currently the digital editor of Newsweek Europe. Since she joined the title, traffic to the website has increased by almost 250 per cent. Previously, Serena was the digital editor of Prospect magazine and also the assistant digital editor of the Sunday Times - part of the team which launched the Sunday Times website and tablet editions.

Jason Cowley, New Statesman editor, said: “Serena joins us at a great time for the New Statesman, and, building on the excellent work of recent years, she has just the skills and experience we need to help lead the next stage of our expansion as a print-digital hybrid.”

Serena Kutchinsky said: “I am delighted to be joining the New Statesman team and to have the opportunity to drive forward its digital strategy. The website is already established as the home of free-thinking journalism online in the UK and I look forward to leading our expansion and growing the global readership of this historic title.

In June, the New Statesman website recorded record traffic figures when more than four million unique users read more than 27 million pages. The circulation of the weekly magazine is growing steadily and now stands at 33,400, the highest it has been since the early 1980s.