Following Ofcom’s publication of an invitation earlier this month for submissions in relation to News Corporation’s bid for the remaining share of BSkyB that it doesn’t already own, the Church of England has reportedly made its concerns known this week.
According to the Guardian, the Bishop of Manchester, the Right Rev Nigel McCulloch, who is also the lead media spokesman for the church, said in a submission to Ofcom that if the bid were accepted it would place News Corp in a position of dominance across two media platforms.
“A News Corporation in full control of BSkyB would combine one of the three significant suppliers of TV news (BBC, ITN and BSkyB), one of the two suppliers of radio news (BBC, BSkyB) and the group with the biggest market share of national press in the UK. It would dominate both the television and newspaper landscape.”
McCulloch said that at the very least there should be an assurance that the independence of Sky News will be preserved in any circumstance, whatever the outcome of the bid and inquiry.
In a submission from Sky itself to Ofcom, the broadcaster claimed that even if Sky News ceased to be an independent ‘voice’ from News International, its small share of viewing figures would mean those who relied on this independence would be “extremely low”.
In the light of these findings, it is relevant that Sky News’ share of national television news viewing remains small at around 7 per cent (potentially lower if viewing of smaller specialist news channels is taken into account) and alternative sources of news, in particular via the internet, have risen considerably in prominence since the CC BSkyB/ITV Report. Further, with regard to the Competition Commission’s third finding referred to in paragraph 4.14 above, even were Sky News to cease to be an independent “voice” from News International following the Transaction, the percentage of the UK population who could be said to have relied upon Sky News as such an independent “voice” (and who therefore would in practice suffer from a loss of plurality) would be extremely low.
In a report on Sky’s submission paidContent said the broadcaster is “effectively trying to limbo under a threshold for plurality, which takeover opponents would be reduced, by framing the bid in the wider context of the last decade’s ongoing internet content explosion”.
In doing so, it is also trying to get the regulator to focus on just one of the content areas in which it operates, saying: “The appropriate focus of Ofcom’s investigation is on national news, rather than the broader content genres (such as entertainment, fiction or drama) referred to in Ofcom’s Invitation to Comment.”