Murdoch: We did it!

I’m posting this on behalf of David Babbs, Executive Director, 38 Degrees

I’ve got an exciting update. Rupert Murdoch has been blocked from taking over Sky News. [1] That means he won’t be able to add it to his news empire, and won’t be able to use it to interfere with our democracy. I want to say congratulations to all of us – for helping to stop him.

The situation is a bit complicated. It’s taken the 38 Degrees office team a little while to pick through the details, and this is a longer email than usual. Read on for all the details, but here’s the super-quick summary:

  1. The government has blocked Murdoch from taking over Sky News
  2. Our campaigning clearly made a massive difference
  3. Murdoch may end up owning other bits of Sky TV – minus Sky News

 

Together, we forced the government to accept that the Sky News takeover would give Murdoch more influence over “public opinion and the UK’s political agenda”. [2] They’ve made their final decision. Murdoch is blocked from controlling Sky News. [3]

This definitely isn’t what Murdoch wanted. And it proves what we can do when we work together. Murdoch has been using his army of lobbyists to try to get full control of Sky News since 2010. [4] Hundreds of thousands of us came together to stop his bid then – it was one of 38 Degrees’ first campaigns. So when he launched a fresh bid in 2016, we jumped back into action.

Here’s how we did it:

  • As soon as news about the Murdoch’s fresh takeover bid broke in 2016, more than 319,000 of us signed a petition to the Culture Secretary Karen Bradley, asking her not to wave the deal through. She announced a first stage investigation. [5]
  • 71,165 of us then sent in our own responses to the investigation. We all had one message: Murdoch can’t be trusted with more control over our media.
  • We called in the experts. We worked with media researchers to show Rupert Murdoch already has too much influence over our politicians. Then we got the research in the papers. [6]
  • Together, we showed that the British public were against the takeover. Thousands of us chipped in for opinion polling – not once, but three times – to share with politicians and officials. The result was clear every single time: the public didn’t trust Murdoch. [7]
  • In June 2017, Karen Bradley announced an even bigger investigation into the deal. Together we sent 65,283 emails to the watchdog tasked with the second investigation (the CMA).
  • The CMA even invited 38 Degrees to a special meeting to explain why so many of us were against the takeover. Their final report said the deal could hand Murdoch too much control over our news. [8]
  • 113,622 of us signed an open letter calling on the new Culture Secretary Matt Hancock to listen to the watchdog and block Murdoch’s bid.  And thousands chipped in for adverts on news websites that we knew him and his advisors would see. [9]

 

Here’s where things get a bit complicated. The government have blocked Murdoch from taking over Sky News, but they’ve given him the go-ahead to buy the rest of the Sky entertainment business. [10] And now there are other companies in the running who are jostling to buy Sky and Murdoch’s company, Fox. [11]

I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Disney might buy Murdoch’s entire company – including Sky. Or another company called Comcast might buy Sky instead.

But right now, I know Murdoch definitely won’t get to take over Sky News, or the extra political power that comes with it.  And that’s because all of us –  alongside other media experts, campaigners, and politicians too – came together to take him head-on. [12]

Here’s what Dr. Justin Schlosberg, Media Lecturer at Birkbeck University, said about our contribution to this campaign:

The Murdochs have long been trying to gain a foothold on British broadcasting. We prevented that from happening and members of 38 Degrees were absolutely instrumental in that campaign. We must remain vigilant: they could come back, in time, with a re-launch of Fox News UK. We must never allow it.

Murdoch’s a determined operator, and he won’t be at all happy. We shouldn’t assume we’ve heard the last of him. We’ll need to keep an eye out, and be ready to jump into action and stand up for our media and democracy again. But for today, I ‘m proud of what we’ve done.

David Babbs

Executive Director, 38 Degrees

Notes:

Notes:
[1] Rupert Murdoch’s company, 21st Century Fox has been blocked from controlling Sky News – but they’ve been allowed to buy the rest of Sky. You can read more about it here:
The Guardian: Rupert Murdoch wins government clearance for Sky takeover: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/jul/12/rupert-murdoch-fox-wins-government-clearance-sky-takeover
BBC News Business: Murdoch’s Fox cleared for Sky takeover bid:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-44805046
[2] The Mirror: Sky takeover bid by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox APPROVED by Tory government: “MPs previously heard the takeover could lead to “increased influence of the Murdoch family trust on public opinion and the UK’s political agenda”.
But newly-appointed Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said the bid would now be allowed following pledges to safeguard the independence of Sky News.” https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/breaking-sky-takeover-bid-rupert-12904361
Huffington Post: Watchdog Presses Pause On Murdoch’s Bid For Sky – HuffPost Verdict: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/murdoch-sky-huffpost-verdict_uk_5a66fe00e4b0dc592a0c0972
[3] See note [1], and:
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Written Ministerial Statement: Media matters:
“On 5 June the previous Secretary of State made a statement to the House in which he set out his decision in relation to the proposed merger…he agreed with their findings on the public interest grounds and their finding that undertakings to divest Sky News to The Walt Disney Company (Disney) or to an alternative suitable buyer could potentially remedy the public interest concerns identified.”:
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/written-ministerial-statement-media-matters
[4] 38 Degrees blog:
Victory – Murdoch withdraws BSkyB bid:
https://home.38degrees.org.uk/2011/07/13/victory-murdoch-withdraws-bskyb-bid/
[5] 38 Degrees petition: Stop Murdoch taking over Sky:
https://speakout.38degrees.org.uk/campaigns/1705
The Guardian: Rupert Murdoch’s Sky bid to be investigated by UK regulator:
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/16/rupert-murdoch-sky-bid-uk-ofcom
[6] The Guardian: Rupert Murdoch accused of enjoying ‘astounding access’ to Downing Street:
https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/feb/05/rupert-murdoch-access-to-downing-street-theresa-may-david-cameron
[7] HITC: 67% think Rupert Murdoch has too much influence in British politics:
http://www.hitc.com/en-gb/2017/07/15/67-think-rupert-murdoch-has-too-much-influence-in-british-politi/
[8] Financial Times: UK regulator rules against Murdoch takeover of Sky:
https://www.ft.com/content/04df5ad8-0013-11e8-9650-9c0ad2d7c5b5
[9] Here’s some of the ads we chipped in for:[10] See note 1
[11] BBC: Comcast backs down in fight for 21st Century Fox:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-44887750
[12] 38 Degrees has been working with the Media Reform Coalition, Avaaz, Hacked Off, Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, the NUJ, and more to stop Murdoch’s Sky takeover.