It’s not a surprise that Rupert Murdoch won. We all knew he would win; the only issue to wonder about was the scale of the victory.
Vince Cable (remember him?) may have bravely said that he was “declaring war” on Murdoch, but in such a war, there was only ever going to be one winner. Rupert always wins.
I think we’re meant to conclude, based on some of the correspondence that has been released, that it was a tough battle between News Corp, Jeremy Hunt and Ofcom, rather than a cosy fireside chat, but I don’t think the end result is a whole world away from the best that News Corp could have hoped for in the first place.
A lot has been made about the decision to hive off Sky News into a 39.1 per cent News Corp-owned independent company, but the really interesting bits about this deal, if it goes ahead (Robert Peston provides a few caveats) lie outside the future of that particular channel.
In all this fuss about the integrity and health of Sky News – and goodness only knows how we’d survive in the modern multimedia age without the insight of Kay Burley or the HD Skyvulture hovering around any newsworthy site – there’s something else that hasn’t been talked about as much. What’s going to happen with the rest of the huge empire that’s now been given the green light? What about the new XXXL BskyB/News Corp group?
You have to wonder what kind of tie-ups there will be between the Sky channels and the paywall-protected News Corp newspapers. Might we be able to get a subscription to the Times or the Sun bundled in with broadband or your TV channels, for example? Might we get a peep behind the paywall as part of our TV subscription?
What if the News Corp newspaper websites provided video news content that might compete with the new “independent” Sky News? And who would regulate that? Richard Desmond is leading the way with a dizzying series of cross-platform plugs for his various Northern & Shell products; it would be naïve, I think, to imagine that the new News Corp wouldn’t do the same, or better.
As well as that, many of us are wondering what regulations or restrictions there would be in place, if any, to prevent BSkyB from establishing a loss-leading news channel to sit alongside the independent Sky News, one that could be completely controlled by News Corp – a Fox News UK, if you can imagine such a thing. (I’m sorry if you can imagine such a thing; it must be ghastly for you.)
This, then, is just the beginning. Where it goes from now is anyone’s guess, but Sky News is only a small part of the picture.