Thursday, 3 March 2011

Why Ofcom is Ineffectual

It's probably best not to delve into my deep feelings on Rupert Murdoch's News Corp getting the go-ahead to buy the shares in BSkyB which it doesn't already own. It would be messy, loud, and probably scare anyone reading this. Needless to say, I'm furious about it. But my anger centres on one man. Yes, Mr Hunt, I mean you.

Ofcom, who have a history of upholding rather stupid complaints while ignoring more serious ones, took one of their rare positive actions when they suggested that the News Corp bid be referred to the Competition Commission. Had Vince Cable still been in control of this, no doubt it would have been. Cable, at best, looks uncomfortable when encouraged to suck up to Tories. He is one of the only major Lib Dems to have retained some semblance of individuality, and he almost lost that in the student fees fiasco. However, Cable's 'war' on Murdoch was enough to get him dragged away from making the decision.

And we all know what happened next.

Jeremy Hunt, Culture Secretary, took over from Cable. Yes, the decision for whether to allow Murdoch to take over BSkyB was given to the man reported last year to have said that he didn't really see the problem with it. Now, that may not be terrible, but it certainly doesn't inspire any confidence about him going into this role with a clear head. Then he sat on his decision for a few months, ostensibly to allow Murdoch time to reassure him that the move would be acceptable. This has apparently been remedied by Murdoch agreeing to spin off Sky News into another company, which most reports suggest barely bothers Murdoch at all in the grand scheme of his interests.

The fact of the matter for me remains clear: Murdoch has been eager to keep his machinations away from the Competition Commission. That alone is the reason why they should be involved. I find it astounding that a media regulator can make one recommendation, only to be overruled by a minister with a preconceived idea of what the case entailed.

I wonder what Vince Cable thinks of all this. This isn't 'war' on Murdoch. This is pandering to him. And we won't be better off for it.

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