The Times ignores Mark Thompson’s criticisms of Sky

Murdoch-owned “paper of record” fails to report BBC director general’s comments on Sky.

Mark Thompson's MacTaggart Lecture impressed many with its effective rebuttal of James Murdoch's earlier address and its principled defence of public-service broadcasting.

A significant chunk of the speech was devoted to Sky, which the BBC director general criticised for not investing enough in original British programming. Thompson also warned that, if successful, Rupert Murdoch's bid to take full ownership of BSkyB (News Corp already owns a 39 per cent stake) would lead to a "concentration of cross-media ownership which would not be allowed in the United States or Australia".

But you wouldn't know it if you only read the Times. The News Corp-owned paper reported on Thompson's speech (£) but somehow glanced over his remarks on Sky and its parent company. Contrast that with the approach of the BBC, which last year reported extensively on James Murdoch's polemical assault on its "chilling" ambitions.

The paper's failure to report Thompson's speech properly certainly wasn't due to a lack of interest in the Edinburgh TV Festival or in the BBC. So here, in full, are links to every story published by the paper and its Sunday sister since the festival began:

Big names to depart BBC as director general pledges deeper cuts 28 August

BBC must allow competition, says Culture Secretary 28 August

Simpson rails at BBC over fat-cat pay deals 29 August

BBC should be cut down to size, warns Michael Grade 29 August

Open up all your accounts or else, BBC is warned by Culture Secretary 30 August

Spotted a trend yet?

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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What happened when a couple accidentally recorded two hours of their life

The cassette tape threw Dan and Fiona into a terrible panic.

If the Transformers series of movies (Transformers; Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen; Transformers: Dark of the Moon; Transformers: Age of Extinction; and Transformers: the Last Knight) teach us anything, it is that you think your life is going along just fine but in a moment, with a single mistake or incident, it can be derailed and you never know from what direction the threat will come. Shia LaBeouf, for example, thinks everything is completely OK in his world – then he discovers his car is a shape-shifting alien.

I once knew a couple called Dan and Fiona who, on an evening in the early 1980s, accidentally recorded two hours of their life. Fiona was an English teacher (in fact we’d met at teacher-training college) and she wished to make a recording of a play that was being broadcast on Radio 4 about an anorexic teenager living on a council estate in Belfast. A lot of the dramas at that time were about anorexic teenagers living on council estates in Belfast, or something very similar – sometimes they had cancer.

Fiona planned to get her class to listen to the play and then they would have a discussion about its themes. In that pre-internet age when there was no iPlayer, the only practical way to hear something after the time it had been transmitted was to record the programme onto a cassette tape.

So Fiona got out their boom box (a portable Sony stereo player), loaded in a C120 tape, switched on the radio part of the machine, tuned it to Radio 4, pushed the record button when the play began, and fastidiously turned the tape over after 60 minutes.

But instead of pushing the button that would have taped the play, she had actually pushed the button that activated the built-in microphone, and the machine captured, not the radio drama, but the sound of 120 minutes of her and Dan’s home life, which consisted solely of: “Want a cup of tea?” “No thanks.” And a muffled fart while she was out of the room. That was all. That was it.

The two of them had, until that moment, thought their life together was perfectly happy, but the tape proved them conclusively wrong. No couple who spent their evenings in such torpidity could possibly be happy. Theirs was clearly a life of grinding tedium.

The evidence of the cassette tape threw Dan and Fiona into a terrible panic: the idea of spending any more of their evenings in such bored silence was intolerable. They feared they might have to split up. Except they didn’t want to.

But what could they do to make their lives more exciting? Should they begin conducting sordid affairs in sleazy nightclubs? Maybe they could take up arcane hobbies such as musketry, baking terrible cakes and entering them in competitions, or building models of Victorian prisons out of balsa wood? Might they become active in some kind of extremist politics?

All that sounded like a tremendous amount of effort. In the end they got themselves a cat and talked about that instead. 

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder