Render unto Murdoch that which belongs to Caesar
Plurality of media, you see, means more truth. Or, rather, different versions of the truth. This permits intelligent and discerning people to make up their own minds on an issue, without fear of being subtly brainwashed by some evil, right-wing media baron.
The timing is a tad awkward for Mr Hunt, coming just the week after he recommended Chris Patten, a former chairman of the Conservative party, as the next chairman of the BBC Trust. Can’t have too many right-wingers running the nation’s media, can we?
One of the voices raised in opposition to the Murdoch takeover of BSkyB has been the Church of England. The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, who is (apparently) ‘lead media spokesman’ for the Church, said: "Our concerns are not about the nature of News Corporation: indeed, we would make these comments whichever commercial organisation might find itself in a potentially dominant market position. A News Corporation in full control of BSkyB would combine one of the three significant suppliers of TV news (BBC, ITN and BSkyB), one of the two suppliers of radio news (BBC, BSkyB) and the group with the biggest market share of national press in the UK. It would dominate both the television and newspaper landscape."
And so he sought assurance of the independence of Sky News, which the Secretary of State has seen fit to grant. He even went so far as to make a submission about the takeover to Ofcom.
His Grace agrees with His Lordship that the vitality and plurality of the media is ‘essential’ for a ‘well informed democracy’.
And His Grace agrees with His Lordship that there is a danger of the ‘exercise of subtle editorial influence’ should BSkyB be taken over completely by News Corp.
But so what?
News Corp-BSkyB belongs to Caesar.
Perhaps, in his search for total probity in the media, the church’s ‘lead media spokesman’ might concern himself more with what is actually broadcast rather than with who is broadcasting. One might expect the Bishop to have the occasional Mary Whitehouse-like rant against all the sexual perversion, foul language and unremitting violence which exercise a not-so-subtle influence over the nation. Or perhaps issue the occasional ‘open letter’ to the BBC about its anti-Israel pro-Palestinian bias, or its anti-Christian pro-Islam tendencies. Al Jazeera (on Sky) is more balanced in its Middle East reporting than the BBC.
Why is Bishop Nigel more concerned with Rupert Murdoch’s potential exercise of ‘subtle editorial influence’, but not the potential of the BBC? Does the Bishop believe that the BBC’s output of ‘neutral news’ is somehow sanctified? News Corp attracts just six per cent of news viewers; the BBC has 58 per cent.
Has the CofE’s lead media spokesman ever made a submission to Ofcom or to the EU Competition Commission about the dominance of the taxpayer-funded state broadcaster?
Frankly, His Grace looks forward enormously to Times-BSkyB cross-promotion, Sun-BSkyB bundling, NOTW-BSkyB cross-platform interaction and the total banning of all rival advertisements. It will restore some balance and introduce more plurality.
And he thanks God that there are rich and successful people who are prepared to persevere and wade through the sanctimonious bleatings of prelates who can prophesy the ‘exercise of subtle editorial influence’ on the right, but are completely oblivious to it from the left.