For years, many of us in Britain have carped and complained, but grudgingly tolerated the Murdoch media empire and its impact on our lives. Ironically, although his News Corporation grows ever stronger, the climate has actually changed in our favour and we now have an unprecedented opportunity to make our protests work.
Firstly, we have the ever-expanding internet at our disposal and have just seen further evidence of its impact as a tool of protest. It was reported from Canada today that internet campaigning has, at least for now, prevented the establishment of a right wing news station, Sun TV. Canadians understandably fear the presence of a Fox type channel and 83,000 of them signed up to the online protest.
Secondly, after last week’s US midterm elections, there is growing awareness at home about the impact of Murdoch’s Fox TV and its huge platform for the extremist Tea Party movement. For whatever reasons, be they political or business, Murdoch’s support for Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin make most of us in Britain, including the Tories, pretty uncomfortable. There may or may never be an equivalent to the Tea Party here, but does the average Briton really want its powerful advocate to be at the helm of our own news and information?
Next, by coincidence or not, the US midterms took place in the same week that News Corporation officially lodged its takeover bid for the rest of BSkyB – which made the alarm bills sound that much louder! The press and public reaction, the debate in the House of Lords, the intervention by Vince Cable, the OfCom enquiry and all the fanfare have served invaluable in heightening public awareness. Meanwhile, concerns are being voiced about the protection of public broadcasting in Britain, with the BBC having its licence fee frozen for the next six years.
Finally, last week ended with the public receiving another reminder of the illegal and corrupt practices that have taken place at the News of the World, when it was reported that Andy Coulson had been quizzed by the police on the phone hacking scandal. However much Mr Murdoch may wish to distance himself from these practices, they happened in his manor. Every time they are mentioned – and there will be many, many more mentions – they damage the reputation of both British tabloid journalism and his News International.
None of these stories is going to go away for a long time. There will be more and more events, revelations and debates. The disquiet will grow and we should be ready to mobilise our protests. Please, therefore, apart from supporting the 38 Degrees battle about BSkyB, do whatever you can to enlist support for our own campaign. The current rules on media ownership lie at the very heart of the problem.
People care about these things but they need to know that the means exist for them to do something about it. In Canada, which has half our population, 83,000 people signed up online. Can we match that here?
(PS Owing to some purported inaccuracies in the Guardian article on the Canadian campaign, the above includes some small alterations to our original blog, posted earlier today It is our policy never to distort information and to always be as accurate as possible. )