Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Vince Cable’s indiscreet comment to two Daily Telegraph undercover reporters, posing as his constituents, that he had ‘declared war’ on Murdoch obviously damaged the broad-based movement of opposition to News Corporation’s planned takeover of BSkyB.
It also gave a Christmas present to the Murdoch media empire whish issued a statement about ‘shock and dismay’ at Cable’s comments and raised questions about the ‘fairness and due process’ of the Ofcom public interest inquiry – the results of which have not been made public but are likely to have recommended a referal of the matter to the Competition Commission. Andrew Neil, the former Sunday Times editor announced on Sky News that a ‘very expensive ad campaign’ had been pulled by News Corporation after Cable’s gaffe because Murdoch was now confident the deal would be waived through.
However the focus of those opposed to the BSkyB takeover has now been redirected to the suitability of Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt taking responsibility for this case. His own website carries an interview with him in which he says Rupert Murdoch has ‘done more to create variety and choice in British TV than any other single person. 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.’
Two points about this statement are worth noting. Firstly, to claim that Murdoch has made British TV the’ envy of the world’ is ludicrous. Rather the BBC, which Murdoch and his son James relentlessly attack in speeches and through their newspapers, has played that role through sustaining distinctive, original programme-making across a range of genres (documentary, current affairs, drama, comedy, natural history) which are invisible on Sky. In the USA, in contrast to impartial news reporting required in the UK, Fox News is the mouthpiece for the Tea Party and the far-right fringes of the Republican Party. Rupert Murdoch is on record supporting a UK variant of Fox News.
Secondly, through his public statements attacking the BBC, and a number of other supportive comments he has made about Murdoch, there are serious questions about Hunt’s ability to oversee in any open, independent way the next stage of the process in this inquiry. The Ofcom report should immediately trigger the next stage, a full Competition Commission inquiry, without delay.
The proposed BSkyB takeover by News Corporation goes to the heart of arguments about media ownership, democracy and power. The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom (CPBF) in its evidence to the Ofcom inquiry argued that Rupert Murdoch has played ‘a corrosive role in UK politics with governments, fearful of antagonising him, shaping policies to win or hold on to his support’. We can also expect an unrelenting lobbying process to push the deal through. Hunt has already had un-minuted meetings with James Murdoch and BSkyB’s chief executive Jeremy Darroch, and more will follow to keep up the pressure.
The CPBF also argued that if the merger took place it would be a ‘transformative shift’ in UK media ownership and have a negative impact on media plurality. Take news provision. Already Sky News, wholly owned by BSkyB, is the only commercial 24 hour news channel. It provides the news for the majority of all UK commercial radio stations and for C5. ITN is the only other commercial news provider but it is vulnerable. If the merger goes ahead it is highly likely that in less than five years time Sky News could be the sole provider of television and radio news in the UK, controlled by single individual who by then also own over 40% of Britain’s national press. It is a terrifying prospect for democracy.
That is why we need to think more broadly about what we can do to oppose the deal. Clearly there needs to a full debate in Parliament (such a debate, initiated by Lord Putnam, took place in the House of Lords in November 2010). But there needs to be a broader public campaign which links concerns about Murdoch with the campaign against cuts and tuition fees.
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi