After months of controversy, Rupert Murdoch has been given permission to purchase the remaining shares of BSkyB – despite concerns about media plurality and the influence Murdoch could wield within the British press system and effectively, the population. But, now that the dust has begun to settle, what’s the reaction from the media?
Press Gazette‘s Dominic Ponsford heralds the possible buy-out of BSkyB as “great for British journalism”. He claims that “the future of Sky News has been assured for the next ten years, safeguarding both its independence and bottom line” and observes that “in today’s troubled times, how many other news organisations can say that?”.
The Independent‘s Steve Richards isn’t surprised by the culture secretary’s decision to green light Murdoch’s purchase, claiming “a reasonably positive outcome for Rupert Murdoch was inevitable”. But he doesn’t pinpoint the issue to David Cameron’s coalition government crumbling at the might of a media mogul. Instead, he holds the Labour party, and its relative silence on the topic, just as much to blame. “The tame political dynamic is the reason why an extension of Murdoch’s empire in Britain is unhealthy, in spite of the carefully structured constraints.” In fact, Richards’ piece suggests a degree of depressing inevitability to Murdoch’s power and influence: “There are battles that mere politicians cannot win,” he says.
A Guardian article – notable for the fact that the paper was one of many that came out against the possibility of a Murdoch deal – takes a different tact, describing the mood at Sky News itself as “subdued”. One unnamed veteran broadcaster the paper spoke to labelled the deal as “totally unnecessary”, the article adding: “[He/She is] arguing that Sky News had, in effect, been sacrificed to solve a problem of plurality that journalists don’t believe exists.” Interestingly, the anonymous quote is the only statement in the article to support the Guardian’s rallying headline: “Sky News journalists fear spin-off will reduce channel’s influence.”
The National Union of Journalists, unsurprisingly, said it will protest against the culture secretary’s decision. “The decision is bad news for democracy and media plurality,” says NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear. “The reverberations will be felt across the entire media and political landscape. Previous undertakings given by Rupert Murdoch have proved toothless and illusory. Today’s whitewash will prove no different.”
Perhaps then, the last word should go to the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who is going to spend a lot of time defending his decision. “Nothing is more precious to me than the free and independent press for which this country is famous the world over.
“In order to reassure the public about the way this decision has been taken I have sought and published independent advice at every step of the way, even when not required to do so by law. And I have followed that independent advice.” That last sentence is interesting, given that Ofcom said the deal should at least be referred to the Competition Commission.