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.
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
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
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
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
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook
‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali
Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.
Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent
Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art
Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs
Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite
Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead
Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee
Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power
The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced
India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya