There is an air of menace in the leader column of The Times today as it attacks BBC director general Mark Thompson over his decision to sign a letter calling for Vince Cable to block News Corp’s bid to buy the 61 per cent of BSkyB that is doesn’t already own.
The letter to business secretary Cable claims that a merger of the country’s biggest newspaper group and the UK’s biggest pay TV broadcaster would harm diversity in the media.
The letter was signed by the chief executives of Telegraph Media Group, Associated Newspapers, Guardian Media Group, Northcliffe Media, Trinity Mirror, BT and Channel 4 as well as Thompson.
Saying that Thompson has made “a serious and surprising error” The Times leader states: “He has embroiled his tax-payer funded organisation in a political and commercial battle that it should have nothing to with.”
It adds: “Mr Thompson’s second mistake is making the BBC part of a political story that it will want to report upon. This was entirely avoidable. His blunder will be a burden for BBC reporters.”
It seems that it us up to Cable to decide who will hold the balance of power in the British media: the BBC, with its £4.7bn a year income, or a unified Murdoch empire which would have turnover of £7.5bn a year.
No other British media player now comes close to these two giants.
Murdoch has faced another heavyweight critic today in the shape of former Times editor Simon Jenkins.
He states: “In an ever more seamless media industry, it is clear that technology tends towards market dominance. The government’s job is therefore to regulate pluralism. Murdoch’s executives argue that they want the remaining 60 per cent of BSkyB, which they in effect control, not for power but for revenue stream. But revenue is power.
“A move by Sky into local broadcasting, married to a bundle of subscriber channels and online and printed newspapers, would give Murdoch’s companies overwhelming media penetration. It must be invigilated.”