Posts Tagged ‘BSkyB’

The week Uncut

16/07/2011, 10:30:20 AM

In case you missed them, these were the best read pieces on Uncut in the last seven days:

Dan Hodges says phone hacking is not the silver bullet

Anthony Painter calls for media ownership reform

Kevin Meagher thinks Ed deserves a pat on the back

John Woodcock on the BskyB bid and media regulation

Atul Hatwal reports on Ed’s next move

Dave Talbot says big up to the Guardian

Ian Austin isn’t after blue or new, he wants future Labour

Matt Cavanagh says the government are spinning rising crime rates

… and this weeks Commons sketch

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BSkyB bid dropped – now we must push for media ownership reform

13/07/2011, 03:22:48 PM

by Anthony Painter

It would be lovely to think that the BSkyB bid has been dropped because of Parliamentary unity and clarity of voice. Unfortunately, this is not really the case. The reality is that two other factors are likely to have led to this decision.

The increasing political and media attention on the scandal in the US and the impact of this focus on News Corporation’s financial standing is undoubtedly a major factor. Questions posed yesterday by Senator Jay Rockefeller who has insisted that allegations that victims of 9/11 had their phones hacked should be investigated have forced the Murdochs into a rear-guard action. BSkyB is no longer the focus- News Corporation itself is the concern and the corporate share buy-back yesterday indicates the emerging crisis for the company.

The second issue is the ticking time-bomb of the Ofcom ‘fit and proper’ test. If they fail that, then not only would the bid have been stopped in its tracks, if may have had to divest itself of its existing highly lucrative 39% shareholding.

There is an important caveat to this. Rupert Murdoch is nothing if not tenacious. His thinking will be that this is the end of the battle but not the war: stabilise the situation in the US and come back later. So be it. However, next time the rules of the game must be different. This is not about one individual or a family or a single company. It is about understanding how we’ve been shown the consequences of allowing large concentrations of power to swell- corruption. Now we must say: never again.

It would be astounding in reality if News Corporation was able to launch another bid in the foreseeable future whatever Rupert Murdoch may be hoping. Nonetheless, if it does it should be on different terms. The Communications Act 2003 is now looking like a highly flawed piece of legislation: most particularly, its public interest test is too narrow. It is not good enough to wait for the public inquiry to report- we need to draft some amendments to our media ownership laws immediately. The following would seem to be sensible:

–      Ofcom should be asked by the secretary of state to continue with its ‘fit and proper’ assessment of News Corporation executives with the evolving criminal investigations taken into consideration.

–      ‘Fit and proper’ itself must be reviewed to ensure that it encompasses executives presiding over the types of malign and illegal behaviour we have seen within News International over the past few years.

–      Cross-media ownership should be more heavily restrained. 20% ownership is the current limit. It should be reviewed with a view to lowering it and it must be revisited should a media company exceed the new limit even after a takeover has occurred.

–      Content provision and carriage should be separated. In other words, no company should be both a content provider and media infrastructure service provider.

–      The BSkyB plan could ultimately evolve its digital television into a walled and bounded internet platform- this is anti-competitive and should not be allowed. If a company provides access to any of the internet, it should be obliged to provide access to all of it on an equal footing (ie same ease of access and download speeds etc.)

These changes will ensure that corporate media power will be heavily constrained. It will not hamper free, fair and determined journalism which is a public good. It will create an open, diverse, and dynamic information market.

We can’t drag our feet in diluting concentrations of media power. We now have the opportunity to act with clear heads.

News International is the power lever; BSkyB is the cash machine. At least the bid has been stopped in its tracks. We are at the end of the beginning of this scandal. Now we can push for an open, competitive, plural, transparent, and dynamic media and an enriched public and commercial space. Time to get on with it before it’s too late again.

Anthony Painter is an author and critic.

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BskyB vote: time to put your money where your mouth is

11/07/2011, 07:00:54 AM

by John Woodcock

After Ed Miliband made the running last week, members of parliament from all parties have said sensible things about the need for a new relationship between politicians and the press.

But the test of whether we understand the gravity of the current situation will come on Wednesday when the house of commons votes on Labour’s motion to delay the BSkyB takeover bid until the current criminal investigation into News International has concluded. I hope MPs on the government benches will put aside their differences and vote with us. They will have spent the weekend listening to constituents who simply will not understand if they talk a good game but fail to act.

Ed has been bold and astute. Over the past week he understood and communicated just how much changed with the revelation that this activity systematically targeted the public not just the famous. But of all the calls he has made, the most important may ultimately prove to be the way he has positioned Labour as champion of a continuing free press in Britain. (more…)

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Wednesday News Review

22/12/2010, 07:29:05 AM

Liberal ‘Discontent’ Spreads

More Liberal Democrat ministers have been exposed as harbouring serious doubts about the fairness of important aspects of coalition policies, especially the trebling of tuition fees and the withdrawal of child benefit from higher-rate tax payers. The revelations will be seen as a sign that some Lib Dem ministers express loyalty to coalition policies in public, but then distance themselves when speaking in what they regard as private conversations with constituents. Michael Moore, the Scottish secretary, said cutting child benefit for higher-rate taxpayers was “blatantly not a consistent and fair thing to do”, while the business minister Ed Davey said he was “gobsmacked” by the decision. Steve Webb, the pensions minister, revealed he had written to George Osborne seeking changes to the policy because “the details aren’t right”. – Guardian

The ministers also revealed behind-the-scenes attempts to slow or even stop Tory policies. It is the first time that Liberal Democrat concern over child benefit cutbacks has surfaced, with opposition to the proposal previously coming from back-bench Conservative MPs. The fresh disclosures were made in conversations between the ministers and reporters from The Daily Telegraph posing as Liberal Democrat voters in their constituencies. Further concerns among senior Lib Dems about Coalition policy and leading Conservative figures will be exposed in the coming days. – Telegraph

Cable now a ‘lame duck’

Humiliated Business Secretary Vince Cable was stripped of major powers last night after an attack on The Sun’s owner Rupert Murdoch. No10 acted after he bragged he had “declared war” on the media boss. Dr Cable – who will appear in Strictly Come Dancing’s Christmas Day special – was clinging to his job by his fingertips last night after the extraordinary attack. Dr Cable’s wild remarks – caught on tape – left PM David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg “apoplectic with rage”, aides said. They let humiliated Dr Cable keep his Cabinet post but stripped him of major powers – leading Labour to brand him a “lame duck”. – The Sun

In an emergency statement issued last night, Downing Street said that a large part of Mr Cable’s responsibilities would now be transferred to Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary.  In a statement, a Downing Street spokesman said: “Following comments made by Vince Cable to The Daily Telegraph, the Prime Minister has decided that he will play no further part in the decision over News Corporation’s proposed takeover of BSkyB. In addition, all responsibility for competition and policy issues relating to media, broadcasting, digital and telecoms sectors will be transferred immediately to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.” More than 70 Whitehall officials who work on media and telecom policy for the Business Department will be moved to work for Mr Hunt from today. – Telegraph

Full steam ahead for takeover

The EU yesterday cleared News Corp’s £8bn bid to buy the 61% of pay-TV company BSkyB it does not already own, thus making a good day for the company even better. The media conglomerate, run by Rupert Murdoch, seized on the ruling, claiming it would increase the pressure on the British government to do the same. A few hours later, Vince Cable, who had the power to decide whether to block the deal on public interest grounds publicly, if unwittingly, declared his opposition to the deal. His boast to two undercover reporters that he had “declared war on Mr Murdoch” fatally undermined the business secretary’s independence and made it impossible for him to rule on the Sky bid. That task will now fall to the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, a man who has previously expressed admiration for BSkyB. – Guardian

Flu cases rise after autumn advertising axe

Swine flu has surged in the past five days with the number of cases requiring intensive care 70 per cent above last year’s peak, the Chief Medical Officer said yesterday. John Healey, the shadow Health Secretary, accused the Government of doing “too little too late”. “The Health Secretary is playing catch-up. The only attention he’s paid to the preparations for this winter’s flu outbreak is to axe the autumn advertising campaign to encourage people to get vaccinated and make them aware of the risks. He made the wrong judgement and it’s left too many people without the flu protection they should have,” said Mr Healey. – Independent

Don’t forget the by-election

The prime minister has confirmed he will be visiting Oldham East and Saddleworth during the by-election to campaign for the Tory candidate. At a joint press conference with deputy prime minister Nick Clegg today, he also described how the next general election will be “slightly different” from usual. “We will fight as separate parties and I hope the campaign will be more polite,” David Cameron said. Cameron said despite the fact “prime ministers don’t often go” to by-elections, he will visit Oldham in the new year. Clegg revealed he will be in the constituency tomorrow. –

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright is heading up a by-election campaign to regain a controversial seat. Mr Wright says he was asked by Labour leader Ed Miliband to be campaign manager in the by-election for the Oldham East and Saddleworth seat in the House of Commons. Now Mr Wright is hoping to use his experience of winning a by-election himself in Hartlepool in 2004 to help Labour candidate for the Greater Manchester seat, Debbie Abrahams. Mr Wright won the 2004 by-election to take the Hartlepool seat with a 2,033 magority after the sitting Labour MP for the town, Peter Mandelson, stepped down to become a European Commissioner.” – Peterlee Mail

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