The new Premier League football programme kicks off next month, but with a difference for those who watch these matches live: the increased presence of BT Sport, making inroads onto the turf formerly the exclusive preserve of Sky Sports. Owning 39% of Sky, and rumoured to be coming back for the 61% they do not own, are the Murdoch mafiosi, who have begun another softening up exercise on the competition this week.
As I told earlier this year, the Murdoch empire are not averse to free market competition, but would rather have their version of the level playing field tilted ever so slightly in their favour. So in order to achieve that tilting, the Murdoch press has been deployed to perform a series of attacks on BT, the latest of which came in the supposedly upmarket Times on Tuesday, with an editorial titled “Digital drag”.
The objective of the leader column was put directly: “Parliament and Ofcom agree that BT and Openreach are failing to meet Britain’s soaring demand for high-speed broadband. The companies should be separated”. Note that BT Openreach is referred to as if it were already a stand-alone company, rather than a division of BT.
And the conclusion of the article? “Openreach must be liberated to serve customers, not its parent”. This is, of course, a totally objective and benign suggestion, and if you believe that, you’ll believe anything. BT Openreach contributes a significant amount of the cash that has enabled BT to challenge Sky for live sports rights, thus driving up the price the latter has to pay to remain in the game, at the same time putting pressure on profits and leaving fewer Premier League matches for the Murdochs to use to sell Sky packages.
What is worse for the Cosa Rupra, BT has also secured rights to broadcast live coverage of the UEFA Champions’ League. So the Sun has been roped in to do a little BT kicking of its own, with a suitably slanted article “Premier League fixtures on TV: Sky Sports or BT Sport? Which station has the best televised games for the opening round of fixtures?” And guess what, the poll at the end says 79% say Sky is better. Just fancy that!
But the best of opportunities comes when the opposition rides to your rescue, and BT did that for Sky yesterday as its Broadband service suffered a serious outage. The Sun could not contain its glee: “Brits furious as internet provider BT Broadband suffers major outage … Huge numbers of people across the country prevented from accessing the web due to fault at internet exchange”. It wasn’t “prevention”, more an unusably slow service.
Still, details, eh? And when the gremlins hit BT’s Broadband offering again this morning - well, some of its users, anyway - the Sun was in raptures: “BT Broadband is down AGAIN: Furious Brits left without internet connection for second day … Massive internet provider issues ANOTHER apology after suffering outage”. With the certainty of night following day, that will be followed by more calls for the company to be broken up.
BT has not helped its own cause with the Broadband outages. But the Murdoch empire’s interest is not benign: they want the company to be split up in order to make it weaker and easier to take out. Customer service? You jest.