Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Media
16 June 2010

Will Cameron cave in to Murdoch again?

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

By George Eaton

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.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

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.

Special subscription offer: Get 12 issues for £12 plus a free copy of Andy Beckett’s “When the Lights Went Out”.