Saturday, 6 November 2010

Cable vs Murdoch Go to War. Surely Not?

I was surprised to read in the New Statesman that Business Secretary Vince Cable had referred the Murdoch owned News Corp's £8 billion bid for control over BSkyB to media regulators Ofcom. For a brief a moment I felt a measure of respect for a man who, along with his own party, pretty much alienated much of their voter base and showed themselves to be the treacherous power hungry turncoats we often expect politicians to be. Talk about resorting to cliches.

However as I read more and more, and thought long and hard about this decision I returned to my original thoughts (the treacherous turncoat ones) and asked why this sudden turnaround?  I can only assume it is to present an appearance of Lib Dem independence from their right wing cohorts who would happily allow Murdoch to own 50% of this country's media outlets. I shall touch briefly on why this is a bad thing shortly. Consider the Lib Dems' position in terms of popularity. Reuters reported that opinion polls gave them 33% approval rating, dropping to 23% following the election and more recently according to a YouGov poll, as low as 10% rating. The Lib Dems are, in political terms pretty much dead in the water, treading out in the open sea until they die of the cold or they are consumed by the very beast they aligned themselves with, chewed up and the remains spat out.

Bearing this in mind the Lib Dems have to, like a blowfish, puff themselves up to seem more aggressive then they really are, although they would do better to tackle an issue that more people either pay proper attention to,or care about (or even both). Still the issue of the likelihood of plurailty in the face of Murdoch's successful hostile take over of BSkyB is an important one as it represents the possibility of Murdoch's corporate message machine dominating the media outlets in this country, even possibly owning more coverage than the BBC. Those who have read my previous Murdoch efforts will know that he has opposed the licence fee, calling it "State-funded media" as if they were the UK's equivalent of Granma.

Back to why Cable is allowing Ofcom to investigate the News Corp bid, and I cannot help but feel that this move has put the media regulators in a difficult position. It's no secret that Murdoch's backing of the Conservative Party was a quid pro quo excercise. He backs David Cameron and the Conservative's during the election campaign and they in turn scrap Ofcom, in particular the rules that currently prevent Murdoch from setting up the UK's equivalent to Fox News. Imagine that, a British version of Glen Beck polluting our screens Amongst the list of quangos published by the Chancellor's office from 21st October 2010, Ofcom were listed as one that would be greatly affected. Should Ofcom tread carefully for fear that they might see their future quickly dissipate? Cable is trying to puff up his stomach to show that his party are still independent or draw fire away fromt he very unpopular cuts that he and the Lib Dems have helped implement buy causing a stir for Cameron's media buddy. Could Cable have deliberately put Ofcom in between the devil and the deep blue sea on purpose?

Of course this is all just speculation and in fact by referring the bid to Ofcom, Cable has slapped a bullseye on his bown back to which Murdoch will surely hone his aim. It is a brave move indeed, since Murdoch's media machine are not averse to stretching the truth like an elastic band in order to smear any political opponent. It will be interesting to witness the lengths Sky News, The Sun, etc will venture to discredit Ofcom and the Monopolies Commission should the decision not stear in Murdoch's favour.

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