Stop Murdoch!

RUPERT Murdoch, who currently owns 39 per cent of broadcaster Sky, is preparing a bid to buy the remainder of the company. His attempt to do so five years ago collapsed with the scandal over the News of the World hacking phones.

Shoreditch street art; © Matt Salusbury

Rupert Murdoch features among temporary Shoreditch-stylee street art on Pitfield Street, London, last autumn: Street artist unknown

The May London Freelance Branch meeting voted to donate £400 to the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom. This has been active in ensuring the bid was referred to mediaregulator Ofcom and is part of the campaign to stop the renewed Murdoch bid going ahead. More lobbying work is needed.

Ofcom is preparing a report on whether Murdoch is a "fit and proper person" to hold a broadcasting licence. The Competition and Markets Authority will prepare a report on jurisdictional issues. We have more time to campaign: the timetable's been put back by the election (see www.londonfreelance.org/fl/1705murd.html for more).

Tim Gopsill, LFB Secretary and editor of the CPBF magazine Free Press, explained that Murdoch's Sky bid was being scrutinised by a "regulatory process biased towards approval". The current bid is by Murdoch's 21st Century Fox group, which owns Fox News. Tim warned that "when Murdoch gets 100 per cent of Sky he will turn it into Fox News."

Tim reported that Ofcom had recently met with Fox News employee Wendy Walsh and her lawyer, who were in London to raise issues of "governance" around Fox News ahead of the bid.

Fox and its senior anchor Bill O'Reilly have between then paid out well over $13 million in settlements over sexual harassment allegations, much of it in severance packages to departing male staff members accused of harassment.

It was once thought to be impossible to turn Sky into Fox News, given the UK's "balanced, regulated broadcasting ecology" and the Ofcom Broadcasting Code. But if it becomes a wholly-owned Murdoch company, with James Murdoch as chair... both Murdochs said they hate UK regulation, and that "The only reliable, durable, and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit," as Rupert told the 2009 Edinburgh International Television Festival.

There is a real risk of "Foxification" of Sky, which now provides almost all news for local commercial radio. Tim predicted that what we are likely to see on a wholly-Murdoch-owned Sky is wall-to-wall commentary, "right-wing talk shows, presented by controversial and forceful hosts who broadcast right-wing propaganda, non-stop."

He noted that all the key examples of "fake news" that were instrumental in Trump's election were either started or spread by Fox News. Watch this space.