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.
Labour's 1983 election campaign has long been used to say it is impossible for a leader like Jeremy Corbyn to win any election from the left. Alex Nunns digs out the truth
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out