The former chairman of the BBC is spot on, allowing even more media consolidation and centralisation can only be the wrong way to go. Mainstream media in the UK is already in a state of disarray, with pluralism being the greatest problem facing the industry. Rupert Murdoch owning the whole of the Sky network will only make things worse.
News UK, the UK branch of Murdoch’s mass media conglomerate (and headed by Rebekah Brooks), already publishes The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun. This equates to a 33.6% market share. That’s a legal monopoly. With this comes an inordinate amount of power over how stories are shown to the public and a larger, over-arching power to set the agenda of what is acceptable in our political system.
I’m proud of the fact that we don’t have our own Fox News in the UK. A network entirely dedicated to producing propaganda for one party is extremely destructive for democracy, even more so when they label their content as “news” and feature a “variety” of so-called experts to talk on their panels. This style of faux-news has never entered the UK’s media sphere, and it is better off for it. However, if Theresa May turns a blind eye to Murdoch’s bid for 100% of the network there is little stopping him creating his own Fox News in the UK. Also, it is entirely likely Theresa May will allow this deal to proceed; she held meetings with Murdoch in September and there is no indication that she has any opposition to the deal.
This deal would increase the power that one single American has over our media. It will result in a media that is more homogenous, not more pluralistic, a media that excludes diverse opinion as opposed to broadening the debate. This is why the former BBC chairman needs to be listened to when he says that the “fit and proper person” test needs to be applied.
We are forgetting that the media industry should primarily be focussed on providing a public service, not running a conventional business. Therefore, the normal free market/business freedoms policy should not be used. After all, if we don’t have a pluralist, independent press can we honestly call this a civil society.