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Tuesday 29 November 2016

Ofcom - The Regulator For Murdoch

[Update at end of post]

The Murdoch press has been lobbying for some months now for BT to be broken up, and specifically for the parent company to be split off from its Openreach division, that part of BT that deals with Britain’s broadband and telephony network. It was not just the Sun that ranted about alleged Openreach shortcomings - the supposedly upmarket and independent Times was also corralled into carrying knocking copy.
The true beneficiary of any BT break-up is revealed

This tide of unfavourable publicity has had a gradually corrosive effect on public perception in the same way that press attacks on social workers, foreign aid, the EU, the judiciary, climate change, and anyone not born in the UK has done. It has reinforced the idea that Openreach is being held back by being part of BT, and that it must therefore be split from it. The reality, that Murdoch is trying to hobble a competitor, is not allowed to enter.

BT has parked its tanks on Murdoch’s lawn by buying up the rights for some Premiership matches, as well as those for the UEFA Champions’ League and Europa League. Rupe doesn’t like that, and prefers a playing field tilted a little more in his favour. So he and his fellow Mafiosi will have been celebrating today at the news that Ofcom has chosen to do his bidding and order the legal separation of Openreach from its BT parent.

Ofcom’s excuse was its “concerns about BT's ability to favour its retail business when making investment decisions in Openreach … It wants Openreach to become a distinct company with its own board, with non-executives and a chairperson not affiliated with BT. It also wants Openreach to have control over its branding and budget allocation … Openreach would also have a duty to treat all of its customers equally, the regulator said”.

More specifically, Ofcom claimed “We are disappointed that BT has not yet come forward with proposals that meet our competition concerns. Some progress has been made, but this has not been enough, and action is required now to deliver better outcomes for phone and broadband users … Some progress has been made, but this has not been enough, and action is required now to deliver better outcomes for phone and broadband users”.

Exactly how much action Ofcom expected BT to have taken since they decided only as recently as July not to force the company to initiate any kind of split, is unclear. The kinds of timescales that large corporates work to are years, rather than months. But the Murdoch mafiosi were back with their demands in September, and it seems their lobbying, including having a former Sun hack as a SpAd to the Culture Secretary, has paid off.

As I said in February, the Murdoch strategy was straightforward: “Sky’s flat revenues have to be transformed. And that happens not merely by offering mobile services and set-top boxes, but also by hobbling the competition. The circle is squared by having the BBC diminished and the assault on BT ramped up. For this, the Murdoch’s press and PR machine will, as ever, be deployed in support”. And so it has come to pass.

Theresa May is so weak and insecure she went to pay court to Rupert Murdoch on her first trip to the USA. Her Culture Secretary is being worked by a Murdoch SpAd. And now we have Ofcom becoming The Regulator For Murdoch. All of this should trouble those who believe in level playing fields and free competition. But most media outlets won’t bother.

Rupert Murdoch is once again bending Governments to his will. No change there, then.

[UPDATE 30 November 1145 hours: anyone believing the Ofcom move was to the benefit of anyone other than the Murdoch empire should consult today's Times editorial, which tells "BT and Openreach are to be forced further apart. About time too" and goes on to underscore this by claiming "Openreach's corporate parent is BT. Together they are holding back broadband Britain".
Later in the article comes the dead giveaway: "[BT] has spent more on sports broadcast rights ... than on broadband upgrades". In other words, parking its tanks on the Murdoch lawn, to the clear disapproval of the assembled mafiosi.

The Murdoch goons aren't interested in fairness, pricing or other competition issues. They want to see a competitor hobbled. End of story]


Anonymous said...

Don't forget Dido Harding, Tory benefactor and boss of Talk Talk, whose efforts to spread customers' details over the Web are hampered by poor broadband speeds.

Alan Clifford said...

Nobody gives a solid stone shit about Ofcom's so-called "competition concerns."

However, a very large number of democratic citizens are hugely concerned at neofascist and racist Murdoch's attempts to monopolise news outlets of all types. Not that THAT bothers Ofcom in the least - now why would that be?

Malcolm Redfellow said...

A long time ago, when the world and ideas-of-broadband were neo-natal, I saw what I thought was alright idea.

Don't dig up roads and pavements serially to lay a whole spaghetti of competing wires.

Get BT to do it once. With an obligation to do it everywhere.

Then designate this network, public wi-fi, etc. as "common carriers", open to all comers, with controlled pricing.

Nah! Not Thatcherite/Majorite enough.