Friday, November 19, 2010

Speaking to Murdoch

Finally, someone has spoken truth to power. Mr. Alan Rusbridger, at the Guardian, spoke in Australia regarding the threat inherent in the kind of media concentration being attempted by Rupert Murdoch here, in Great Britain and in Australia. I quote below from an article in the Guardian focusing on Mr. Rusbridger's talk.

"Alan Rusbridger, the editor-in-chief of the Guardian, today stepped into the debate over whether Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation should be allowed to take full control of BSkyB, by warning of the "chilling effect" that "one large media company can have on public life".
Giving a lecture in Murdoch's native Australia, Rusbridger said that the revelations of phone hacking at the News of the World illustrated "the nature of the problem" when one media group becomes too powerful in the UK.
The controversy, Rusbridger said, "raises questions which are not so much about hacking, troubling as those are, but about how other forces in society – whether it is other media organisations, the police, the regulator or parliament itself – behave when faced with the muscle of a very large, very powerful and sometimes very aggressive media group".
He added that "something is dangerously out of kilter" when MPs such as Adam Price on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee confess they have been "held back" from probing into News Corporation's affairs because of "fear of what that company might do to them" – or when former employees are "too frightened to speak publicly about what they know" .
In June, News Corporation proposed an £8bn buyout of the 61% of satellite broadcaster BSkyB it does not already own, a deal that would bring together the largest newspaper group in the UK, with nearly 40% of the average daily sale with the largest broadcaster by turnover. Combined, the two companies would have a turnover of £7.5bn, compared to the BBC's £4.8bn.
Rusbridger queried whether it could be "good public policy to allow a still greater concentration of power across not just one wing of the Fourth Estate but two". He said that while it was possible to come up with "all kinds of metrics" to justify the merger on competition grounds, "it would still feel wrong".
He said that the argument about the proposed buyout was not about the individual merits of Rupert Murdoch as a media owner, warning instead that "there's no one I would want to have that much power" – whether it was the BBC, the moderator of the Church of Scotland or even Sir David Attenborough.
Last month, a group of competing newspaper groups and broadcasters – including Guardian Media Group, publisher of the Guardian – signed a letter calling on Vince Cable, the business secretary, to refer the proposed merger to Ofcom on "public interest" grounds. The other signatories included the companies behind the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror, as well as BT, Channel 4 and the BBC. Cable referred the bid to Ofcom in early November, after News Corp had formally notified the European Commission of the proposed takeover.
The deadline for submissions to Ofcom is today, with a range of media groups and thousands of individuals expected to put their views forward – including the members of the alliance of newspaper owners and broadcasters opposed to the deal. However, the BBC has decided to drop out of the group, amid a row at the corporation over whether it is legitimate for the public broadcaster to take a hostile stand against any rival."
Thanks to the Guardian and its editor-in-chief for having the courage to speak publically about the growing threat to democratic systems posed by Mr. Murdoch and his merry band of thugs.
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