Devil in disguise 

22 December 2010

Judging by the reaction from some media commentators, the removal of Vince Cable from making the decision as to whether or not News Corp can take over BSkyB (it’s bound to be ‘Yes’ now, isn’t it?) is as if the sky had just fallen down on them – quite literally in this case.

But is it really bad news for those who view such a deal as being a disaster for UK broadcasting, and could the consequences of a BSkyB-News Corporation marriage be potentially far more damaging for both partners in the longer term?

Indeed some conspiracy theorists are already suggesting that all of this is a complete setup with the full cooperation of everyone involved; Vince Cable does gaffe; does Tory friends a favour whilst saving face amongst Lib Dem colleagues by expressing a personal opinion; world moves on.

Put another way, if Cable had managed to block the BSkyB deal, there would undoubtedly have been messy and protracted legal challenges as a consequence both at home and in the European courts, and there’s little doubt that News Corp supporters within the current government would still find a way of making the deal happen somehow.

This of course remains just a conspiracy theory in the absence of hard evidence, but such a theory could also help to conveniently answer the question as to why a rival newspaper group would end up assisting its Murdoch enemy in such a blatant fashion.

Let’s face it, the unconditional approval of News Corp’s BSkyB takeover bid by the European Commission wasn’t that hard to foresee given that it’s exactly the same commission that seems to allow Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s ownership of Mediaset together with the ability to influence as much as 90% of Italy’s media outlets.

(And of course the reason why BSkyB was so confident in its dealings with the European courts.)

But will such a takeover make any practical difference, especially given the fact that many people were surprised to discover that News Corporation actually didn’t own BSkyB in the first place; something that could be easily forgiven given the existing close ties between the two?

The main concerns relating to a BSkyB/News Corp deal will include such areas as advertising sales, bundling deals, cross-promotion issues and (perhaps) controlling any additional influence that News Corp may have on BSkyB’s output; the latter would certainly require news channels in particular to remain non-partisan like they do already.

Such a deal won’t change BSkyB’s basic editorial stance because that is already dictated by News Corp in no uncertain terms, so any benefits to both parties will predominantly be of a financial nature.

However there are clouds on the horizon for the happy couple. All the surrounding publicity has certainly increased general awareness of BSkyB’s monopolistic position, and such a deal would significantly increase any possibility of a future change of government deciding to conduct a full investigation into BSkyB/News Corp’s activities.

Indeed BSkyB may end up regretting the day it decided to allow News Corp to take full control, even if the pair look as if they are a match made in heaven. Or hell, depending on your viewpoint.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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Liverpool, Tuesday 25 June 2024