Rusbridger on News Corp-BSkyB merger: No-one should have that much power

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger isn’t just against Rupert Murdoch buying all of BSkyB – he would be against anyone having that much power.

This was one of the points he made delivering the Andrew Ollie lecture in Sydney today. You can read a long abridged version of his talk on the future of journalism, subsidised media, the BBC, twitter and so on here on The Guardian.

And here is the full-length version, with audio on the ABC website.

Here are few extracts that I have picked out…

The News Corp-BSkyB buyout:

There is the prospect of a merger between a wholly owned BSkyB and the four newspaper titles owned by News Corp. That would give one company control of nearly 40% of Britain’s press as well as a broadcaster with nearly £6bn in revenues compared with the £3.5bn licence fee of the BBC.

Now, I realise that even raising this question immediately translates, in the minds of some, into an argument about Rupert Murdoch. It’s not. There’s no one I would want to have that much power. Not the Scott Trust, not the BBC, not Arthur Sulzberger, not the moderator of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland. Not even the saintly David Attenborough.

But, as it happens, the events of the past year or so, in the aftermath ofrevelations of phone hacking at the News of the World, do illustrate the nature of the problem.

They raise questions that are not so much about the hacking, troubling as those are, but about how other forces in society – whether it is other media organisations, the police, the regulator or parliament itself – behave when faced with the muscle of a very large, very powerful and sometimes very aggressive media group, especially one that is keenly interested in exerting political influence and expressing powerful views on how media regulation should operate.

The Times’s paywall versus The Guardian free access online model – and the massively larger amount of online traffic The Guardian now has versus The Times.

The jury on the relative financial models for different approaches will remain out for a while yet. But these comparative figures point to completely different ideas of scale, reach, audience, engagement, ambition…and of journalism itself.

The future of digital journalism:

As for digital, I am with the utopians – fully aware that some see that as a term of abuse. I am sometimes giddy with the possibilities new technologies offer us for being better journalists: for reaching even larger audiences; for having more influence; for being embedded in the most astonishing network of information the world has ever seen or could ever have imagined.

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