Friday, April 27, 2007

Things Are Looking Up.....

After the last post, I am probably risking even more vomit being hurled at monitors. And no-one is more deserving of everyone's utter contempt than Rupert Murdoch. Luckily, today has not been a good day for Murdoch, which means it has been a good day for just about every person in existence. So let's take a moment to revel in the moment shall we?

First of all, it would appear that the government might just sprout a pair of balls (albeit it reluctantly) by possibly referring BSkyB's purchase of a 17.9% stake in ITV to the Competition Commission. The Secretary of State has until 26th May to decide whether to follow the advice of the Office of Fair Trading. One hopes, for the sake of democracy, that they decide to refer it to the Commission and BSkyB are forced to give up their share.

The deal itself, if allowed to go through, could pose a serious threat to democracy. With such a share, BSkyB could have a major say in the output of ITN news (which also produces Channel 4 News). This would mean that the majority of viewers would be left with a choice between the BBC and BSkyB, clearly an unacceptable outcome in terms of the plurality of news output. There seems to be no other option other than to refer the purchase. How can any politician justify a deal that will see our democracy undermined in such a way? I am hopeful that the government (and the Commission) take the necessary action to preserve democracy, but the track record under Blair suggest these hopes might be misplaced. I hope I am wrong.

Then comes the news that Virgin Media have submitted a complaint to the London High Court claiming that BSkyB:

abused its position in the market to withdraw Sky One and other channels from its (Virgin Media's) cable network with an aim to impact its subscriber numbers.

While I do not have much sympathy with Branson (he is after all, just another businessman out to make a quick buck), it is good to see him standing up to Murdoch. For too long, this friend to the right has been able to get away with doing pretty much as he pleases with very few people standing up to him (especially politicians who are in awe of the media tycoon). As Virgin Media have claimed, BSkyB has a “dominant position” in pay-TV and has “abused that dominant position”. I for one hope that Branson gives Murdoch a bloody nose and that the tide may just turn against him. The future of democracy relies on the plurality of information sources, the alternative leads us down only one path.