Whether or not Rupert Murdoch is forced to relinquish his dominance over the British media landscape should be more than about whether he is a “fit and proper” person. The important question is whether it is in the public interest for someone to be so dominant in the media market and, by extension, hold so much sway over our political and public life. The fact that David Cameron, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown felt unable to ignore any summons from the ageing media mogul suggests a resounding no. We would all do well to remember the famous quote from Lord Acton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The real lesson we should learn from this ongoing saga is that we cannot allow our corporate media market to be dominated by one person or one corporation ever again.
Joe Cox is campaigns organiser for Compass.
A better question is whether Ofcom is a fit and proper body to decide who should own newspapers and TV stations. The Ofcom board may be made up of worthy and upright individuals. But why should a bunch of former BBC executives, superannuated Downing Street advisers, the British Library boss and a couple of career regulators have the power to deprive anyone of a business they have built up? It’s not the rule of law but rule by quango. Sure, the Murdoch businesses are big and their influence strong. But they are hardly a monopoly. If you are searching for a monopoly in broadcasting, for an organisation that dominates and distorts the public debate in Britain, you should look at the BBC, which – unlike BSkyB – anyone who watches TV is forced to pay for. Start by breaking that up, and let British media be driven by customers, not quangos.
Dr Eamonn Butler is director of the Adam Smith Institute.