The NUJ and the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom are circulating a statement saying Jeremy Hunt (pictured) should not be allowed to make the decision over whether Rupert Murdoch can take full control of BskyB.
The statement says: "We welcomed the decision by Business Secretary Vince Cable MP to initiate a public interest test into News Corporation’s proposal to take total control of BSkyB by acquiring the remaining 60.9% of BSkyB shares it does not own. We remain concerned about the implications of the proposals on media plurality and ownership in the UK.
"We support the principle of media pluralism as a necessary component of any democratic society, in which the range of opinions and information are made available through the media.
"News Corporation is a global media corporation spanning film, television, cable, satellite, newspapers, magazines and book publishing with assets valued in September 2010 at £33 ($56) billion and annual revenues of £20.5 ($33) billion. It is active in the United States, Continental Europe, United Kingdom, Australia, Asia and Latin America.
"BSkyB and the UK arm of News Corporation’s publishing operation, News International, are already the largest companies in their respective sectors.
"Jeremy Hunt MP, the Government’s Culture Secretary, may be delighted to be given the power to decide whether he should stop the merger but if Vince Cable is inappropriate to make any quasi-judicial decision, then so is Jeremy Hunt - it does not adhere to the spirit of impartiality to transfer the decision from one politician who has expressed an opinion, to another who has simply expressed the opposite opinion:
"Jeremy Hunt has said 'It does seem to me that News Corp do control Sky already, so it isn’t clear to me that in terms of media plurality there is a substantive change, but I don’t want to second-guess what regulators might decide.'
"Jeremy Hunt has also said 'Rather than worry about Rupert Murdoch owning another TV channel, what we should recognise is that he has probably done more to create variety and choice in British TV than any other single person because of his huge investment in setting up Sky TV, which, at one point, was losing several million pounds a day. We would be the poorer and wouldn't be saying that British TV is the envy of the world if it hadn't been for him being prepared to take that commercial risk. We need to encourage that kind of investment.'
"We are therefore calling on the Government to acknowledge the widespread support amongst the public to limit the power and influence of Rupert Murdoch's media empire and to agree to a full-scale Competition Commission investigation into News Corporation’s proposal to take total control of BSkyB."
- The union and CPBF are asking organisations and individuals to sign the statement.