Sky and Fox: You have to laugh at CMA!

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The Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) is a truly wonderful organisation. Its self-proclaimed role is to work to promote competition for the benefit of consumers. Its decision on January 23rd to “provisionally find that the Fox/Sky deal is not in the public interest” seems wholly contrary to that mission statement.

With the world – and Rupert Murdoch – having moved on considerably since the lawyers at the CMA started looking at reasons to object to this deal, the “provisional” decision seems even more ridiculous.

The CMA decision seems to wholly ignore the fact that British newspapers are dying day-by-day.  Readership is evaporating to on-line sources. Advertising income for ITV is under huge pressures, while digital ad-revenue is booming. The concept that in today’s broadband and Internet world that Murdoch’s newspapers have too much influence is foolish in the extreme. That the Murdoch Family Trust can somehow elbow out or begin to dominate the on-line news sources that now prevail is – in my view – so old-fashioned as to be laughable.

Meanwhile, and for year after year, the British broadcasting mandarins and regulators have objected and sneered at anything attached to the Murdoch name.  They’ll permit Viacom to mop up Channel 5, they’ll allow just about any organisation to involve themselves in British broadcasting (Disney, Scripps, Discovery, Liberty). Let me be clear, I have nothing but praise for the way these non-British entities have invested in UK broadcasting, and continually rejuvenated creativity. But Murdoch has fought every inch of the way to create and build his UK-based operation, and sustained huge losses in Germany and Italy along the way.

And it is the same with Sky News. Maintaining Sky News has cost Sky a fortune over the years. Indeed, even the CMA “provisionally” praises (no doubt through gritted teeth) Sky News (“Sky has a good record in this regard, consistently complying with broadcasting regulation. It also has comprehensive and effective policies and procedures in place to ensure broadcasting standards are met.”)

One suggestion made by the CMA is that Sky News is spun off as a separate entity. Viewers who enjoy Sky News can only hope that it survives and remains as a valued and hugely professional news broadcaster. The alternative, that Disney acquires Fox and Sky, and closes Sky News and thus eliminates the losses on the channel, will be the real threat to media plurality.

You just have to laugh!


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