The real media oligarchy that has corrupted Britain
Published in: Daily Mail
By common consent among political commentators, Ed Miliband’s lamentable leadership of the Labour Party has been miraculously transformed by the News of the World scandal.
With the Prime Minister seemingly paralysed by his unwise friendships with now-compromised News International executives, the Labour leader has been making the political running.
He has achieved this through the simple trick of demanding what had already become inevitable, such as the resignation of Rebekah Brooks or the termination of Rupert Murdoch’s bid for BSkyB.
The result is that the formerly reviled Miliband has gone from zero to hero.
Apparently intoxicated by the novel experience of not being scorned, he has now ratcheted up his demands by calling for News International to be broken up.
But far from reinforcing his newly-discovered statesman credentials, this merely exposes his agenda as callow and partisan.
For sure, the News of the World did things that were wrong; and when the full extent of this behaviour is established, those responsible should be held to account, however high up the chain of command they happened to be.
But why should it follow that News International should therefore be broken up? After all, it is possible to imagine that everyone involved in this affair — including the entire Murdoch clan — might be replaced by people with totally clean hands to run the company.
The reason, says Miliband, is that Murdoch has ‘too much power over British public life’. But this is transparently disingenuous. For there is a media oligarchy which exercises far more power in Britain than News International. And that is the BBC.
The BBC’s monopoly over the media is indeed a running scandal. After all, just imagine if News International had been given the legal power to levy a tax on everyone who bought a newspaper in order to fund the Murdoch empire.
People wouldn’t stand it for a moment. It would be considered an utter abuse of democracy. Yet that is precisely the privileged position the BBC occupies.
Ah, say its defenders, but the BBC is a public service broadcaster, and therefore of course merits a public subsidy as a great British institution which must be preserved at all costs.
Well, that argument just won’t wash any more. For the BBC wraps itself in the heroic mantle of a public service remit which it has systematically betrayed.
That remit was to educate and elevate public taste, as well as to entertain. But for years now, the BBC has instead been playing to the lowest common denominator, competing in the ratings market as ruthlessly as any commercial broadcaster.
In addition, it has also used its public subsidy to gain a wildly unfair competitive edge, with an enormous market share in television, radio and on the internet which has crowded out smaller competitors. Ofcom figures show that its share of TV news is more than ten times bigger than Sky’s and that BBC websites have ten times the market share.
Indeed, since it is a direct competitor of BSkyB, the disproportion and relish with which the BBC has been reporting the News of the World scandal — allowing it on some current affairs shows to drive out all other news — leaves a very bad taste in the mouth.
Moreover, the BBC’s role in all this is even more questionable when you factor in the real reason for Miliband’s double standard.
For his motives surely have precious little to do with any criminal behaviour or monopoly power. No, the real reason is that for the past three decades the Left has been desperate to bring Murdoch down.
For such people, he is a hate figure of diabolical proportions. The venom and hysteria he inspires are truly irrational.
He ignites passions far more incendiary than are generated by any tyrant or war criminal. Indeed, to them the Left turns a blind eye, while treating Murdoch as if he dismembers babies before breakfast.
The reason is that he acts as a kind of lightning rod for Left-wingers — the object of a massive displacement neurosis arising from all their rage and disappointment, not least with themselves.
For example, both Left-wing newspapers and the BBC blame Murdoch for the decline of standards in the media, from high seriousness to celebrity culture and tacky trivia.
But at the BBC, that was the result of its own misguided response to the explosion of digital channels and the arrival of a cornucopia of broadcasting choice.
And even high-minded newspapers such as the Guardian decided more than two decades ago to fill their pages with trivia because they judged that the general public was becoming dumber and shallower.
No, Murdoch’s real crime in the eyes of the Left-wing intelligentsia is simply that he has stood in the way of their total capture of the culture.
The dominance of Left-wing ideas has been such that even among so-called conservatives many of them have become accepted as mainstream. And one of the most powerful architects of that shift has been the BBC.
Even its own executives have sometimes been forced to admit that, far from the objectivity required by its public service remit, the BBC generally subscribes to a Left-wing ‘group-think’ which dictates the agenda both in its journalism and entertainment programmes.
With some honourable exceptions, whether in its drama, comedy, news reporting or current affairs the BBC’s output rests upon certain articles of faith.
For example, traditional Christians are all fundamentalist bigots; the science of man-made global warming is settled; opponents of mass immigration are racist; Eurosceptics are swivel-eyed fanatics; and all who oppose these opinions and more are Right-wing extremists.
And then to add insult to injury, the BBC forces people to pay for the privilege of being told day in, day out that their own views are stupid or prejudiced.
What’s more, such is the enormous power and influence of the BBC through its reputation for trustworthiness and fairness that it has arguably moved the very centre of political gravity in Britain to the Left.
By contrast, Murdoch’s popular papers have tended mainly to follow public opinion once voters’ minds are made up. So they respond to and then amplify what people already think.
But for the Left that is anathema, because nothing can be allowed to disrupt the great project to tell people what to think and shut down all opinion to the contrary.
Murdoch’s empire has acted as at least a partial antidote to that agenda by defending America, Israel and the interests of the West.
Which is why he provokes near-apoplexy on the Left.
And which is why they are all slavering at the prospect of bringing down a media organisation which provided an element of competition to the true monopoly of the BBC and the Left-wing intelligentsia.
The great irony, of course, is that for all those years while this scandal was taking place, the Labour Party fawned over Murdoch and his lieutenants. While he was riding high, none of them saw fit to challenge the power they now purport to find so unacceptable.
Only now Murdoch is lying bleeding on the ropes does Miliband flex his puny muscles. And they call that leadership.
The Murdoch empire may need to be brought sternly to book over the hacking scandal. But the media monopoly that really has undermined and demoralised British society and deserves to be broken up is the BBC.
And that is one monopoly over British public life which Ed Miliband unsurprisingly finds to be no abuse of power at all.