Fox Reaches for the Sky Beyond the Line of Sight of Democracy

This is an article from the Guardian.  It questions the influence of Media Moguls on democracy given their strong viewpoints.  What this means is that editorially they can select news that promotes what they believe the world should think. This is not democracy. Democracy is simply presenting the news in a balanced approach (not pretence) but actually providing information that is in the highest interest of citizens.

How is it possible that individuals have been given unprecedented power and influence over governments, business interests and coaching beliefs that align with their views.  It is good to see independent news on the internet which is now providing alternative viewpoints from which people can choose in their own right.

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/mar/08/murdoch-sky-bid-threat-democracy-karen-bradley-media

Rupert Murdoch

Murdoch Sky bid is ‘serious threat to our democracy’

Campaigners say Karen Bradley should refer mogul’s proposed takeover to Ofcom on media competition grounds 

 

Rupert Murdoch
Critics of Rupert Murdoch’s bid say Sky News could become more like rightwing US-based Fox News. Photograph: Joe Castro/AAP

Murdoch Sky bid is ‘serious threat to our democracy’

Campaigners say Karen Bradley should refer mogul’s proposed takeover to Ofcom on media competition 

@marksweney
email

Opponents of Rupert Murdoch’s bid to take full control of Sky have called for it to be blocked because the mogul’s family are not “fit and proper” owners following the phone-hacking scandal.

The same critics have also raised fears that Sky News could become more “Foxified”, a reference to the rightwing US broadcaster Fox News, which would come under the same roof as the UK channel if the merger went ahead.

On Wednesday, campaigning group 38 Degrees delivered a 300,000-strong petition to Karen Bradley, the culture secretary, demanding the proposed £11.7bn takeover be referred to Ofcom for further investigation.

“Giving even more control over our media to one man is a serious threat to our democracy,” said Maggie Chao, campaigner at 38 Degrees. “Rupert Murdoch is not fit and proper to take even more control over the news we read and watch.”

Bradley, who has set a deadline of Wednesday for submissions from 21st Century Fox and opponents of the deal to make their case, has said she is “minded” to call on Ofcom to assess potential media plurality issues and concerns about whether Fox is committed to the required editorial standards, such as accuracy and impartial news coverage.

38 Degrees has been joined by online activist group Avaaz and watchdog Media Matters in ramping up pressure on Bradley.

Avaaz, in conjunction with the Media Reform Coalition, has already made a submission arguing that the bid should be rejected on media concentration grounds because the overall market shares of both Murdoch-owned newspapers the Sun and the Times as well as Sky remain “materially unchanged” since the last bid in 2011.

Avaaz has now also submitted a lengthy document, in conjunction with Media Matters, cataloguing a wide range of examples of Murdoch exerting influence over the output of media that he own in the US and the UK.

In September, Media Matters called for an investigation into rightwing news network Fox News after allegations that the cable channel hired a private investigator to obtain the phone records of its reporter, Joe Strupp.

Rival broadcasters are also expected to lodge complaints in the UK and Europe – the European commission is also examining the deal – after expressing concerns that a Fox/Sky combination will dominate bidding for top-flight sport, TV shows and movies.

Fox’s submission argues that six years after the aborted 2011 bid, which Murdoch abandoned due to the phone-hacking scandal at his UK newspapers, the media landscape has changed beyond recognition with the rise of digital rivals such as Google and Facebook and news distributors and new outlets such as Vice, Buzzfeed and Huffington Post while traditional newspaper sales decline.

“We are confident that the transaction is in the public interest and will stand all tests,” said Fox, in a letter from Jeffrey Palker, the company’s deputy general counsel, submitted to the DCMS on Wednesday.

In a carefully timed charm offensive at a conference last week which included Sharon White, the chief executive of Ofcom, James Murdoch argued that “we are in an era of ultimate plurality, where choices, sources, and access are multiplied, even from where we were only five years ago”.

Murdoch, who has insisted that he will not have to offer to spin-off Sky News as he offered in 2010 to quell plurality concerns, has pledged to keep Fox News at arm’s length and “continue to broadcast news under the Sky brand maintaining its excellent record of compliance with the Ofcom broadcasting code”.

Ofcom has the right at any time to order a “fit and proper” investigation into Murdoch, earlier this week shadow culture secretary Tom Watson urged the regulator to conduct the test in a debate in the House of Commons.

An Ofcom investigation found in 2012 that Sky remained a “fit and proper” owner of a broadcast licence, but published a scathing assessment of James Murdoch – then chairman of Sky and head of the UK newspaper business – finding that his conduct repeatedly fell short of the standards expected.

“[Fox] takes compliance matters extremely seriously and is proud of the transformation of its corporate governance and of the arrangements it has put in place since [the phone hacking scandal],” said Palker. “In fact, the level of scrutiny and controls we have imposed around the world were informed by the lessons learned in 2011. [Fox] is confident any analysis Ofcom may be requested to undertake will confirm this.”

Ofcom has had a chance to air any concerns about Murdoch and investigate his role when news broke last January that he would be returning as Sky chairman and, significantly, after the highly publicised revolt at the Sky’s annual meeting when more than 50% of independent shareholders voted against his re-appointment.

Fox supporters argue that given Ofcom has previously considered Fox’s 39% stake in Sky to be the same as “controlling” the pay-TV company – such as when it told Sky to sell down its stake in ITV in 2010 – it is hard to justify the move to 100% control now as triggering a fit and proper test of Murdoch if his return as chairman was unchallenged.

Fox also argues that since the aborted bid News Corp has split into two different companies comprised of its newspaper assets in one, and its TV and film assets in the other, with independent boards.

“The separation of [Fox] from News Corporation is a significant consideration and a material change from analysis carried out by Ofcom when News Corporation sought to acquire the remaining shares in [Sky] in 2010,” said Palker.

However, opponents argue that the Murdoch family will still be the ultimate owner of both newspaper and TV assets in the UK and that will give them to much control over UK news media.

Part of Avaaz’s submission includes a legal view from George Peretz, who has recently represented campaigners mounting a legal challenge to Brexit, arguing that Bradley should add the “fit and proper” test to the Enterprise Act 2002 alongside the existing public interest criteria.

Separately, David Puttnam has introduced an amendment to the digital economy bill, which would subject all media takeovers to the fit-and-proper test and which is expected to be debated in the House of Lords.

This comes after a group of cross-party politicians including Ed Miliband demanded that the regulator launched an immediate review of whether James Murdoch met such a test to hold a UK broadcasting licence.

Bradley, who has said she has not yet committed to issuing a public intervention notice to refer the deal to Ofcom, will make her final decision next week.

“Murdoch’s attempt to grow his media empire in Britain is against the public interest,” said Alex Wilks, campaign director at Avaaz. “Karen Bradley needs to ensure they are subject to maximum scrutiny as she decides whether to hand them more control.”

Former culture secretary John Whittingdale advised his successor to refer the Sky takeover bid to media regulator Ofcom. Asked why, at a media industry conference in Oxford, he said “because there would be a huge political row if I didn’t”.

Whittingdale, who has made no secret of his support for Murdoch’s ownership of the media company, indicated he did not believe the bid by Fox should be blocked. If anything, he said, the media industry had become more competitive with the prominence of social media groups such as Facebook or Google, which lessened the dominance of the Murdoch-owned media.

In a statement, 21st Century Fox said it did not believe the deal would result in “insufficient plurality” in the UK media. “21CF welcomes a thorough and thoughtful regulatory review. We believe this transaction is in the interest of the UK, its creative economy and its consumers,” it said. “For the past 30 years, 21CF and Sky have been broadcasters of good standing in the UK, a responsibility we take seriously.

“The UK has a thriving creative and media sector that is becoming increasingly more plural and we are confident that this transaction would not result in there being insufficient plurality in the UK. We will continue to work with all relevant regulatory authorities in assisting their reviews.”

Mohandas Gandhi

“Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.”

Archives
Categories