The Bishop of Manchester this week called for News Corp's £12 billion bid to take control of BSkyB to be blocked. It follows Vince Cable’s referral of the bid to Ofcom, the UK’s communications industry regulator, based on concern that the deal will threaten media plurality in the UK. There has been a growing and unfounded anti-Murdoch sentiment fomented by his media rivals based on the allegation that he has a monopoly over British media. This is mistaken.
In terms of media plurality (sustaining a diversity of views in the media), Murdoch has done a great deal to encourage plurality and innovation through his investment in the UK media scene. Like all profit-driven ventures, success in media comes directly from satisfying people’s wants: Sky News wouldn’t exist without Murdoch’s money and we would probably still be watching three or four TV channels without his support for satellite TV.
James Murdoch also made a strong point when he highlighted how much News Corporation have invested in UK media. Their investment has led to the creation of over 30,000 jobs in the UK over the last 40 years and News Corp’s commitment to innovation, particularly in digital journalism, has changed the face of news provision. Meanwhile in print journalism, Murdoch runs the Times at loss. Without his passion for print media and his deep pockets facilitating long-term recovery, it would most likely collapse. It’s also worth noting that only Murdoch’s support has allowed the Times to experiment with charging for online content – an innovation that may secure the future of other independent newspapers if successful. It’s rather ironic seeing Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC, calling for Ofcom action against BSkyB when Thompson is the man running the market-dominating, government-funded media monopoly.
As Stephen Foster has argued, the media world is kicking up a fuss about Rupert Murdoch not because of concerns about media plurality, but because they are afraid of the competition. The vilification of Rupert Murdoch as a ‘media tyrant’ gives cover to his rivals to run to the regulators to protect them, rather than trying to compete by offering better services.