Plurality or not?

With all the provisos attached to News Corp’s takeover of BSkyB, opposition to the deal has surely now been diluted. But there are, perhaps, two groups who can still legitimately complain about the outcome.

Firstly, those of us who believe that unrestricted freedom of speech is vital in the TV broadcasting arena. The Murdoch empire has had to surrender its news channel in order to, essentially, buy a profitable platform for broadcasting sport and movies. This is seriously disturbing for anyone who feels that the BBC’s output of ‘neutral news’ needs to be challenged. The only major independent broadcaster – ITV – gave up long ago with their own news channel. Only Murdoch ran an alternative news platform, and at a massive loss.

But this brutal financial reality downplays the massive change in broadcast news that SKY brought about. The BBC swiftly moved to match its operations in terms of 24/7 coverage. Never as well as SKY – and rarely as fast – but at least it made the BBC try to use its colossal resources to compete with a new broadcasting entrant. A certain amount of the money you pay to the BBC for its news coverage was deployed in combating and matching the entrepreneurial genius of SKY. Your BBC viewing experience was directly enhanced as a result.

Read the rest of the article on the Spectator CoffeeHouse blog.

Director General, IEA

Mark Littlewood was the IEA's Director General from 2009 to 2023, when he made a significant contribution to growing the institute's outreach and profile.

Mark also sits on the Board of Big Brother Watch, a non-profit organisation fighting for the protection of privacy and civil liberties in the UK.  Mark is recognised as a powerful, engaging and articulate spokesman for free markets. He is a much sought-after speaker at a range of events including university debates, industry conferences and public policy events.He also features as a regular guest on flagship political programmes such as BBC Question Time, Newsnight, Sky News and the Today Programme. He writes a regular column for The Times and features in many other print and broadcast media.

1 thought on “Plurality or not?”

  1. Posted 07/03/2011 at 13:14 | Permalink

    This entire story has struck me as very odd and a classic example of state corporatism and the destruction of markets in action. The state is concerned that there may be a monopoly of news broadcasting in this country or at least insufficient competition. This is odd because the greatest driver towards a news monopoly is the state itself. Firstly, and most evidently, the BBC is a monolith which prevents any real market developing. One might see BBC News 24 as a good way to spend the licence fee, but surely it really operates to make Sky less profitable and prevent any other entrants to the market emerging (if Sky News was making very large profits, other news channels would see this and respond to the price signal).
    Less evident but equally important are the other means that the government prevents market entrants via regulation and costs specific to broadcasting and in the economy in general. Thus any action to ‘encourage’ competition and plurality taken by the state is merely the state responding to problems caused by its own prior interventions! No doubt the conditions will create futher problems that the state will need to take further action to ‘solve’ and so on ad infinitum.
    I found it laughable that the BBC was involved in the campaign to prevent the takeover – surely it shouldn’t have a say in the structure of the market, aside from the irony that it is the chief monopolist!
    The other bizarre feature of British broadcasting is the requirement for ‘objectivity’. Seeing as no human being is capable of objectivity, this seems rather an odd requirement to me. It’s not surprising that the BBC, as a state organisation, is correspondibly statist. However, to pretend that it is objective when it is not, and then impose this same condition on the rest of the broadcast media in order to protect the BBC is plain madness!

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