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Lib Dems: What is the end goal over Rupert Murdoch?

I know that I am a bad Lib Dem. I have been told that on many an occasion. I am a Lib Dem who has Sky TV at home and that automatically means that I deserve a public execution or something to that effect. However whilst that might be being a bit facetious what seems to be the case is that Lib Dems up and down the country are waving their hands in the air like they just don’t care – I mean waving their hands in the air trying to get people to notice them and telling everyone that will listen they the party has never supported Rupert Murdoch.

In fact Vince Cable famously boasted about wanting to declare ‘war on Murdoch’ and at the time Ed Miliband called for him to be sacked as back then he was still pro-Murdoch before the public turned. Now Miliband is trying to round up support of the Lib Dems to defeat the government in a vote on whether Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB should go through seemlessly or whether he has to jump through some more hoops. However that is not the point of this blog (although any blog where you can show that Ed Miliband’s whims change more than a schoolgirls crushes is always fun).

So where do the Lib Dems want to go with this. Maybe not the parliamentary party but the grassroots seem to want more than just stopping old Rupert having a bigger share of the UK media. The grassroots as far as I can tell from reading blogs, twitter et al want blood. They want to see the breakup of Murdoch’s media empire. They want the removal of Murdoch having anything to do with the UK media. Get him out and the freedom of the press is assured. Not that another wealthy businessman or woman would step in and buy up a significant share of the market but maybe that is what the Lib Dems want to stop.

I was having a twitter conversation last week with a couple of fellows who wanted to make it that one person/company can only control one media outlet at a time. This would they believe ensure the freedom of the press. I sat on the other side of the ledger as I just don’t see how you can do that. Small newspapers do not make money and how are you going to stop someone from owning several in a media group? What is someone starts up a new newspapers and it does really well and they want to expand into local radio or into another local area, should these people be stopped? Is it right to put restrictions on what people can do with their business?

I believe not. I don’t think you can in a capitalist market stop people from buying businesses. It is not fair on the buyer or the seller. What you can do is put restrictions on the sale and in this case ensure editorial freedom for the staff. If Murdoch for example wanted to buy a newspaper for £500million and the next person could only offer £250million then why should the seller have to forgo £250million so that Murdoch could not buy the company?

In an ideal world then obviously Murdoch would not want to takeover BSkyB but this is not an ideal world – this is what I like to call the real world (gives a nod to Miranda Hart for that line). Now of course herein lies the problem. Murdoch already owns The Times (albeit that newspaper has editorial freedom) and The Sun. The Sun is a stooge of Murdoch and does what he tells them. The Times does not. Now of course the major problem people have with the BSkyB deal is the future of Sky News. Can it stay independent even if Murdoch controls 100% of the parent company?

If we go back 100 years we’ll see that Lord Northcliffe aka Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe owned the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, The Times, The Observer and The Sunday Times. That is quite a portfolio. Without him it could be argued that The Times, The Sunday Times and The Observer would not exist any more as all three were in a dire financial situation when they were rescued by Lord Northcliffe. So having a policy of one man not being abl to own a more than one media outlet would have probably caused one or more of the aforementioned titles to be dissolved and consigned to the history books.

I argue that even if Murdoch owned Sky News and it didn’t have editorial freedom (which is would as part of any deal) then there are still alternative sources for news. Murdoch does not have a monopoly on news in this country and nor does he even have a majority. More people read daily newspapers that aren’t owned by Murdoch than those that do. More people watch news programmes that aren’t made by Murdoch owned companies.

So what do we do? What do we want to do? Can someone please let me know what the end goal of all this is? I do not know if it is to get Murdoch out of the business altogether, if it is stunt his growth, to chop-off part of his organisation so he can only control a certain percentage of the media or whether it is to simply carry on with the very liberal – and sanctimonious – holier than thou – attitude that many Lib Dems reek of.

I need to know what the party really wants. Then I can form an opinion. All I know at the moment is that the party is against Murdoch and that no Lib Dem has ever watched a Sky TV programme or read an article in any Murdoch owned newspaper. The party are above Murdoch and any links to him and his organisation are a disgrace.

So can any Lib Dems tell me exactly what they want from all this? Murdoch out? Stronger regulation of the press and owners of the press? Restrictions on the media? Or to just be right and better than the rest of the population?

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  1. roger shade roger shade

    I think you make many good points, the coverage of the scandal on SKY news has been balanced and in many ways better than the BBC, at least some LibDems have been allowed to contribute. However that said I think what Libdems object to is the abuse of ‘power’ Murdoch has demonstrated. It has not all been his fault politicians Blair, Brown and Cameron have been known to worship at his’temple’. I think if we are honest all we want is honest reporting of facts and a certain humility when Newspapers express opinions. Mostly for me I would like to see the trivialising of News to cease and an end to our Celebrity culture.
    Unfortunately I think it is unlikely that anything significant will happen, apalling right wing populist rubbish will continue poor forth from the Mail and Express and the Sun and the Mirror will continue to exploit our infantile celebrity culture.

  2. Alisdair McGregor Alisdair McGregor

    I think the sensible things to be looking for are;

    Increased restrictions on owners editorial control of media they own, *especially* once the owners overall control of media markets surpasses a threshold, and these restrictions to be applicable over the entire media spectrum (i.e. Print & TV control are considered together, not separately)

    A beefed up Press & Editorial Complaints structure with the power to restrict individuals from working in media if they breach the rules (similar to current legal abilities to restrict company directors from taking up further directorships when found culpable of wrongdoing).

    Increased requirement for factual standings of articles & clarity when presenting opinion pieces rather than fact.

    There’s probably more, but those three seem the most urgent to me.

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