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Media unions and academics demand inquiry into BSkyB bid

23 December 2010

The NUJ has joined other media unions and academics in demanding a full-scale inquiry by the Competition Commission into plans by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation to take total control of satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

An open letter signed by NUJ leaders, Jeremy Dear and Michelle Stanistreet, and BECTU's Gerry Morrisey, among others, stated:

"We welcomed the decision by business secretary, Vince Cable, to initiate a public interest test of News Corporation's proposal to take total control of BSkyB by acquiring the remaining 60.9 per cent of BSkyB shares it does not own.
"We remain concerned about the implications of the proposals on media plurality and ownership in the UK.
"We support the principle of media pluralism as a necessary component of any democratic society in which the range of opinions and information are made available through the media.
"News Corporation is a global media corporation spanning film, television, cable, satellite, newspapers, magazines and book publishing with assets valued in September 2010 at £33 billion and annual revenues of £20.5 billion. It is active in the United States, continental Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, Asia and Latin America.
"Jeremy Hunt has said, 'It does seem to me that News Corp controls Sky already, so it isn't clear to me that, in terms of media plurality, there is a substantive change, but I don't want to second-guess what regulators might decide.'
"Jeremy Hunt has also said, 'Rather than worry about Rupert Murdoch owning another TV channel, what we should recognise is that he has probably done more to create variety and choice in British TV than any other single person because of his huge investment in setting up Sky TV which, at one point, was losing several million pounds a day.
'We would be the poorer and wouldn't be saying that British TV is the envy of the world if it hadn't been for him being prepared to take that commercial risk. We need to encourage that kind of investment.'
"We are therefore calling on the government to acknowledge the widespread support among the public to limit the power and influence of Rupert Murdoch's media empire and to agree to a full-scale Competition Commission investigation into News Corporation's proposal to take total control of BSkyB."

The letter was signed by:

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary;
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ deputy general secretary;
David Babbs, 38 Degrees, campaigning website;
Gerry Morrissey, BECTU general secretary;
John F Smith, Musicians' Union general secretary;
Professor Keith Ewing, president, Institute of Employment Rights;
Professor Natalie Fenton, co-director of Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre;
Dr Des Freedman, author of The Politics of Media Policy;
Dr Hugh Mackay, The Open University;
James Curran, professor of communications at Goldsmiths College, University of London;
Professor Julian Petley, chair of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom;
Ludek Stavinoha, doctoral researcher at the University of Strathclyde, School of Applied Social Sciences;
Dr Jonathan Hardy, University of East London;
Dr Dan Jackson, senior lecturer in media and communications, Media School, Bournemouth University;
Larry Herman, NUJ London Photographers' branch;
Joy Johnson, lecturer at City University, London;
Granville Williams, journalist and media commentator;
Dr Aeron Davis, department of media and communications, Goldsmiths College, London;
Professor Tom O'Malley, media studies, Aberystwyth University;
Aidan White, International/European Federation of Journalists general secretary;
Zsuzsi Yardley, Unite delegate to the national council of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom;
Dr Julian Matthews, lecturer and course director, University of Leicester;
Gary Herman, New Media Industrial Council;
Richard Simcox, national press officer, Public and Commercial Services Union.

The NUJ has also launched a public petition with 38 Degrees, demanding Jeremy Hunt passes Ofcom's report straight to the Competition Commission for a full-scale investigation.

Tags: , rupert murdoch, bskyb, competition commission, jeremy hunt, vince cable, broadcasting, newspapers, news corp