Karen Bradley announced she is “minded” to refer Fox’s bid for Sky to the CMA – is this a takeover we should fear?
Steven Barnett, professor of communications at the University of Westminster, says YES
For nearly 40 years Rupert Murdoch has been running rings round our governments and regulators. From his acquisition of Times newspapers to bypassing media ownership regulations through satellite TV, he has exploited the spinelessness of six successive Prime Ministers (with the possible exception of John Major) who refused to stand up to the power of a burgeoning media empire.
Yesterday’s announcement by culture secretary Karen Bradley that she is “minded” to refer his bid for Sky to the CMA is welcome. But it comes with a huge caveat. History tells us that Fox will come back with promises of money and independence for Sky News, to avoid a referral. They will be as worthless as every other Murdoch guarantee. Democracy depends on a diversity of voices, which is undermined when one individual is given disproportionate power to influence opinions and news agendas.
Bradley must be resolute and reject those inevitable promises, allowing a full and thorough investigation by an independent regulator.
Charlotte Henry, media writer and author of the upcoming book Not Buying It, says NO
One of the main reasons for opposition to a takeover of Sky by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox is that Sky News would become a British Fox News, a broadcaster at the heart of the fake news discussion. That fear is hyperbolic and unfounded. For one thing, I have faith in the standards of British journalism. The idea that Adam Boulton will become Sean Hannity is laughable.
Furthermore, those who fear a Murdoch takeover of the media should have more faith in the market. Indeed, basic science tells us that one force creates an equal and opposite one. When you have a Fox News you get an MSNBC, when you have a Bill O’Reilly you get a Rachel Maddow. In the UK we also have the neutral buffer of the BBC, and that should remain.
A partisan race to the bottom in broadcasting must be avoided, but we should not fear loosening the shackles on broadcasters, or this takeover.