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Murdoch and BSkyB and British Politics

July 10, 2011

If I were advising News International I would be telling their top crew to recruit the best lawyers in the UK – vital given the UK inquiries being set up and the prospect of anti-bribery prosecutions under both UK and US law – and to watch what happens in the House of Commons on Wednesday. That’s opposition debate day. Labour leader Ed Miliband will move to block the News takeover of BSkyB. The Liberal Democrats will come under tremendous pressure to vote with Labour. Indeed they will be in a position where they dare not.

Some Tories could cross the floor as well.

Miliband’s options – here I’m thinking out loud – would range from “not a fit and proper person” brutality to “refer and delay” mildness. As I write he is about to announce his tactics. Either way he puts the baby-faced parson of a Prime Minister,compromised by his friendships with News of the World editors, under acute pressure.

The News people should assume sizeable middle class demonstrations led by families of the war dead expressing outrage against the takeover. Demonstrations so large and respectable that not even the parasitic anarchist and Trotskyist fringe will be able to discredit them. Murdoch executives should assume a petition promoted by celebrities that aims for a million – no, two million – signatures.

Always look for the British public transforming itself in some unifying moral outrage. It could well engender a climate where Cameron’s support would collapse if he allowed the takeover through. And this is a fast-moving drama, with shocking revelations to appear by the minute as the two inquiries get to work and ex-journalists spill the beans.

Whatever happens, a textbook will be written some day on how the corporation responds to this existential challenge and the lessons will be taught at business schools for years. Reminds me, too, of the old anxiety you have running a state government : out there sit 300,000 state government employees and at any moment you can never assume none is engaged in corruption or illegality.

Of course, if you ever learn about it and do nothing you are dead.

What will Miliband do ?

For once – because the government he faces is a coalition with a left-leaning party – the opposition leader has real power. And an issue which is galvanising the public like none anyone can recall.

  1. gordicans permalink
    July 10, 2011 4:27 pm

    Wednesday will be fascinating as we watch News Interational’s grip on public life in the UK evaporate before our eyes. And what of News Limited in Australia, and how will events in the UK effect its operation in this country?

    Not a great deal I expect, except that it exposes how News Limited operates and how rutheless an organisation it is. They like to keep their politicians on a leash and will go to any lengths to attack and bully those not prepared to go onto the leash. It is not the policies of the Greens, Oakeshott and Windsor that News Limited is against. It is simply that they refuse to yield to News Limited and their associated power elites. A LNP government would represent a fully certified News Limited compliant government.

  2. Anthony Porter permalink
    July 10, 2011 10:13 pm

    It’s interesting to think about Rupert’s reported comments about ethics and a Fairfax wanker being among his menegerie. I bet my bottom dollar Rupert is now wishing he had a lot more Fairfax wankers.

  3. Peter Morris permalink
    July 11, 2011 12:38 am

    One snag is that it is News Corporation who are bidding for B Sky B whereas is it News International who are running the newspapers. If their boards are different (and they are probably very similar at the moment) then News Corp could distance itself from News Int.

    • Bob Carr permalink
      July 11, 2011 6:49 am

      Doubt it.

  4. July 11, 2011 7:42 am

    Yes I agree the textbook – or Vanity Fair article – on this will be an interesting read some day.

    Fish rots at the head. All the finger-pointing downwards smells like a very typical response by corporate sociopaths floundering to salvage their reputations.

    Meanwhile, Mr (‘Collective decision’) Murdoch seems to be taking days to fly to London and the blogosphere is awash with incisive comments from all kinds of well-informed people. Hard to hide in a linked-up cyber-world.

  5. July 11, 2011 10:49 am

    I would be more interested to know what the Gillard Government is going to do about the Australia Network Television contract. The arguments that apply to the B Sky B could be easily translated to an Australian context. The trouble with News Corp and its related activities is the self-censhortship that takes place amoung News Corporation journalists. There is no need for an editorial edict from on high. I remember when Phillip Adams did a piece on Dennis Potter’s interview about the media. Adams failed to mention that Potter had called his tumour Rupert. When I challenged Adams he told me he did not mention it because he worked for News Corp and he did not feel free to pass on the information. This to my mind is the real cancer that is at work within Mr Murdoch’s empire.

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