The BBC’s recent documentary of ‘The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty’ is worth watching. However, two important details from the history it conveys were missed out:
- During 2011, Murdoch was attempting to buy all of BskyB (as reported in the documentary). The then culture secretary Jeremy Hunt was put in charge of assessing ‘on a quasi judicial basis’ whether Murdoch’s plan was compatible with media plurality. In 2012, the Leveson enquiry revealed a lengthy record of emails, texts and phone calls showing a secret communications channel between Hunt and James Murdoch devoted to pushing the deal through and giving Murdoch what he wanted. In one email, Frédéric Michel, James Murdoch’ chief lobbyist, wrote to Murdoch of Hunt ‘He said we would get there in the end and he shared our objectives.’
- When Prime Minister David Cameron was still refusing to speak out against Murdoch, Labour leader Ed Miliband made the decisive intervention of declaring that Murdoch’s empire should be broken up. This was the first time in a long time a leader of a major political party had challenged Murdoch’s power. Without this detail, the audience is left with the impression that both former Labour and Conservative leaders have been equally subservient to Murdoch.
There was also no discussion of how Murdoch is ensuring his grip on UK politics continues in spite of failing newspaper sales through the establishment of talkRadio and Times Radio (Murdoch is also planning to launch a Fox News-style show in UK, although perhaps this was announced after the documentary was made). We are not left with the awareness that this is still going on and is something we can challenge.
I’ll leave to readers to decide whether the BBC is reluctant to criticise a still prominent Conservative MP or to praise of a Labour leader significantly more left wing than Tony Blair.