There has been a collective sigh of relief today. As had been predicted by many, Vince Cable has referred to the BSkyB takeover bid to Ofcom. Round one is won and credit must be given to 38 Degrees and everyone who has fought so strenuously to prevent a takeover. Please continue to support the 38 Degrees campaign by following the link in our blog roll.
There is a long road to travel. Mr Cable may have the best of intentions regarding media plurality, but rules and regulations could defeat him (see our previous post, Suddenly Next Summer) and we may still be faced with News Corporation taking full control of Sky. We clearly need to be vigilant every step of the way and, crucially, we need a strong opposition to fight this crucial corner.
We were therefore pleased to see (before the announcement of Cable’s referral) a “strongly worded” article in today’s Guardian by shadow culture secretary, Ivan Lewis. Mr Lewis argued that Mr Cable should intervene “for the sake of our democracy”, but his conclusion looked a little wishy-washy:
“Media ownership and competition should be driven by the market, but regulation is essential. Labour’s 2002 Enterprise Act empowers the secretary of state to intervene to protect the plurality of media ownership. If the government fulfils its obligation to transparency at every stage of due process, it will have our support ……”
The question we must ask ourselves is: if Labour’s 2002 Enterprise Act was supposed to save us from media plurality, how come so much of our media belongs to one corporation? Perhaps the answer lies here:
“No one courted the media more than New Labour in the run up to the 1997 election, in return for favourable coverage later…..Tony Blair convinced Rupert Murdoch that New Labour posed no threat to its media ambitions and in return Murdoch supported Blair and the war in Iraq….This support was to last until Blair announced he would stand down.” (From Joy Johnson’s Free Press review of “Campaign 2010” by Nicholas Jones.)
We do not want to go over all the whys and wherefores of the Blair courtship of Murdoch. But we do say that, in opposition, Labour should be bold enough take a strong stand. The existing legislation and regulations are clearly inadequate. Ivan Lewis needs to argue the case for a media commission. Ed Miliband and shadow business secretary, John Denham, should do likewise.
Ivan Lewis, Guardian 4.11.10 http://t.co/fTMuAPW