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Monday 31 August 2009

That’ll Cost You, Sport – 6

The discussion and debate over Murdoch Junior’s Beeb bashing continues: former Guardian editor Peter Preston today plays devil’s advocate in suggesting that Junior was right, and that it’s hard to have an online presence when the BBC puts news out there for free (well, for no additional charge). However, Preston doesn’t tackle Junior’s demand for less regulation, and the associated spectre of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse). Nor does he dwell on the thought that BSkyB, the UK broadcaster with the largest income, is effectively urging the hobbling of its most significant competitor.

Rather, the argument is being made that the BBC is somehow responsible for the running down and closure of local and regional newspapers, which does not stand serious analysis: this is happening across the USA, the land where the level of regulation is more to the Murdochs’ tastes – and the Beeb is nowhere in sight. This isn’t about encouraging plurality, bringing new market entrants and encouraging competition: Junior and Dad don’t give a stuff about them. It’s about News International getting more and more powerful.

Consider this: what forced BSB to cave in to Sky? It wasn’t the BBC. What finished Setanta? Nope, BBC not present there either. Who made a share grab for ITV to prevent competitors getting their hands on the broadcaster? In all of those cases, the cause was the Murdoch empire. This is the “chilling” prospect, the source of the “land grab” and the reality of the kind of “competition” favoured by Rupe and Junior. And the provision of news for free is not deterring new entrants to the market, as the Independent has noted today.

Yes, Microsoft has decided it wants to join the news provision party. After all, it already attracts a substantial audience to its MSN portal – more, apparently, than any of the newspaper sites – so a move into more serious news journalism seems logical. But what about the pay to view idea? Anyone trying to promote this as the way forward would do well to study this unequivocal line from the Indy piece:

There is no likelihood that MSN will seek to charge users for its content

which would seem to contradict Rupe and Junior. So that’ll be another source of news available without charge, and without the Murdochs.

Maybe the future won’t be so bad after all.

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