Rupert Murdoch’s suggestion that Sky News will be independent from his other media outlets has been branded “fanciful” by a collective of newspaper rivals opposed to his plans to buy out the remaining shares in BSkyB.
The coalition group opposing the bid – which consists of BT, Guardian Media Group, Associated Newspapers, Trinity Mirror, Northcliffe Media and the Telegraph Media Group – have argued that Jeremy Hunt’s decision to allow Murdoch’s proposed purchase of BSkyB is flawed, and the promise of independence is unlikely to see the light of day.
In a legal submission to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport – which Hunt is in charge of – the alliance says: “It is fanciful to expect that Sky News will enjoy any meaningful independence allowing it to offer a separate contribution to news plurality.
“Instead, the editors and directors of Sky News will be acutely aware that the viability of the company – and therefore their own job security – depends entirely on maintaining the approval of News Corporation.”
Murdoch’s offer to branch Sky News off from his other media interests appeared to assure Hunt that there was no need for a lengthy, and possibly bid-blocking, independent review. Since then, Hunt’s motives have come under strong scepticism from the publishers that will face competing against a News Corporation with the fresh addition of Sky News. Hunt told the Guardian yesterday that no political motives came into play while he made his decision.
According to the Financial Times, the coalition of media companies has already given up hope of forcing the government to review Hunt’s decision, as sources within the group of dissenters allegedly admitted it has “almost no chance of success” in obtaining a judicial review.
Murdoch, if his purchase of BSkyB is successful, has vowed to split Sky News off into its own independent company, and subsidise it for the next decade through News Corporation. He claims this move will allow the broadcaster to retain its independence from News Corporation, in response to concerns raised over media plurality.