Sky writing 

22 November 2010

Want something to read that’s simultaneously both amusing and sinister at the same time? Then head over to the Sky website and download the PDF of BSkyB’s submission to Ofcom in relation to a share buyout planned by a certain large corporation that wants to own the UK’s only satellite pay-TV provider along with their existing collection of newspapers.

There’s the inevitable (and somewhat pitiful) claims that any investment in Sky News/associated BSkyB activities will be somehow threatened if this takeover is blocked, but BSkyB is most certainly not going to let go of a business opportunity afforded by being the dominant UK pay-TV operator, is it?

Not to mention all the massive investment BSkyB has already made in Sky News over the years; something that’s doubly ironic considering that the same excuse turned on its head is normally used to defend Sky’s current dominance of pay-TV sport, namely the alleged ‘risk’ of losing all the benefit of past investments made in this area if made to share its spoils.

These really desperate and hollow-sounding claims just serve to underline from the outset that BSkyB really really really wants a News Corp takeover even if it privately thinks that the odds may still be stacked against it despite what many pessimists seem to think.

Anyway, the document is well worth reading just for the bits that give Ofcom a good slagging off; clearly there’s certainly no love lost between the two when there’s some brutally snide and catty comments like:

“Sky notes that Ofcom’s Invitation to Comment incorrectly refers to “British Sky Broadcasting plc””

And BT predictably comes into Sky’s firing line as well:

“BT is reported to have called for a public interest intervention in relation to News Corporation’s proposal. Sky is unaware of any significant contribution that BT has made to the plurality of news provision in the United Kingdom.”


Sky also attempts to invoke the Competition Commission’s prior ruling in relation to news provision, namely when referring to BSkyB’s 17.9% ownership of ITV plc shares:

“We do not therefore expect BSkyB’s ability materially to influence ITV to have an adverse effect on the plurality of news relative to the position absent the acquisition. We therefore concluded that the acquisition would not materially affect the sufficiency of plurality of persons with control of media enterprises servicing audiences for news.”

Such a claim naturally sidesteps the fact that News Corp’s planned BSkyB shareholding will be much greater than 17.9% and well into majority ownership territory; BSkyB will certainly then become Rupert Murdoch’s plaything despite any prior existence and influence of Murdoch clan members (James in particular) within the operations of BSkyB.

And it would be inevitable that any weakening of broadcast news impartiality regulations will very likely cause Sky News to slowly evolve into a Fox News clone, making those claims of prior impartiality rather moot to say the least. Can BSkyB claim hand on heart that any so-called impartiality will never ever change as part of any News Corp deal?

Sky News may not be a hugely popular or influential news channel in the UK at present, but if the channel is allowed to ratchet up its shock value to that of Fox News in the US, its influence could extend further as well as at least becoming a controversial talking point if nothing else. (Not to mention cross-promotion via News Corp-owned newspapers.)

To cut a long story short, BSkyB seems to be basing its pro-News Corporation ownership case primarily around an assertion that the number of major UK TV news providers will either go down (if the deal fails) or alternatively remain unaffected (Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN, ITN, Russia Today, Sky, etc.) as a consequence of a full News Corp takeover.

But this assertion neglects any cross-ownership media concerns that are truely and firmly dodged here, and Sky’s also trying to force the whole issue out of Ofcom’s hands and over to the European Commission, hoping that the example of Silvio Berlusconi’s cross-media ownership in Italy will seal the deal for a News Corporation takeover of BSkyB.

BSkyB may claim Sky News to be the main sticking point (that ‘little-watched’ satellite channel with, erm, a share of 7%), but any deal’s influence will extend well beyond this with a strong risk of unseating what’s left of the UK newspaper industry courtesy of your choice of News Corp-owned newspaper delivered to your door as part of a Sky subscription.

(Subsidised of course.)

Even if specific undertakings are made to avoid such bundling deal(s) from being offered – which may ultimately not be worth the paper they’re written on – there are other major concerns relating to existing influence(s) that News Corp may have on the entertainment industry as a whole; something that’s effectively impossible to legislate against.

And something that the UK will live to regret.

A member of the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System
Liverpool, Saturday 15 June 2024