Monday, August 31, 2009

Unexpected news: Murdoch opposes public option, calls it "chilling"

Well, maybe it's a little unexpected: The Murdoch in question is James, currently Chairman and CEO of the Murdoch media empire's European and Asian branches, not his father Rupert.

And the public option he opposes has to do with media ownership in the UK, not health care insurance.

James Murdoch tonight launched a scathing attack on the BBC, describing the corporation's size and ambitions as "chilling" and accusing it of mounting a "land grab" in a beleaguered media market.[…]

[H]is most withering comments were reserved for the BBC. "The corporation is incapable of distinguishing between what is good for it, and what is good for the country," he clamed. "Funded by a hypothecated tax, the BBC feels empowered to offer something for everyone, even in areas well served by the market. The scope of its activities and ambitions is chilling."

He described the BBC's purchase of the travel guide publisher Lonely Planet as a "particularly egregious example of the expansion of the state" and compared government intervention in broadcasting with failed attempts to manipulate the international banana market in the 1950s.

Murdoch added that the BBC's news operation was "throttling" the market, preventing its competitors from launching or expanding their own services, particularly online. News International, the News Corp subsidiary that owns the company's British newspapers, including the Sun and the Times, is currently considering introducing charges for all its websites.

"Dumping free, state-sponsored news on the market makes it incredibly difficult for journalism to flourish on the internet. Yet it is essential for the future of independent journalism that a fair price can be charged for news to people who value it," he said.

He added: "We seem to have decided to let independence and plurality wither. To let the BBC throttle the news market, and get bigger to compensate."

By defending "independent journalism," I naturally assume Murdoch the Younger is referring to the fact that the BBC, unlike the Murdoch-owned tabloid The Sun in the UK, is stifling competition by declining to include page three girls among its programming.

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