Trying to stop Murdoch from consolidating his hold on BSkyB was always going to be difficult. That is mainly because the case for stopping him was rather weak in the terms that governments are allowed to intervene in such matters. Murdoch already has practical control; he does not dominate the total television market, with the BBC and ITV still strong. The case rested on the proposition that he would further dominate the news market as a whole. But what really drove the campaign against Murdoch was fear and loathing. Liberals should have no difficulty with the loathing side of this, against the organisation that created Fox News, but this does not constitute grounds for intervention.
The fact is that Murdoch does not have a monopoly of hateful rightwing propaganda in the UK. He’s in stiff competition with the Mail, the Express and the Telegraph. And he does not have a monopoly on dodgy journalism, where the Mirror joins the list. It is these organisations that should fear him, and they were a strong part of the campaign to stop his takeover of BSkyB. Liberals can be much more sanguine: he’s not really after our part of the market.
But we do have to swallow a hard fact. An awful lot of people in our country will pay good money to read right-wing rubbish. Murdoch is exploiting this fact, not creating it. Promoting liberal values is about making stronger arguments. Press regulation needs to be firm; we must protect the independence of the BBC. Who owns BSkyB is a pretty secondary issue.
Matthew Green blogs at thinkingliberal.co.uk.