25 Jan 2011 1 comment. tbs.pm/1240
I’m no particular fan of this present government. I’m hardly unique in this, but I’m still finding it hard to accept that we appear to have got both the furthest-to-the-right government the country has had since the war and the most corrupt one.
And all of this with the supposed ‘steadying hand’ of the Liberal Democrats seemingly daring the Conservatives to go further right and more deeply corrupt with each new announcement.
I didn’t like the cuts in Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Health in Pregnancy Grants: they were clearly targeting women and children for the cuts. I didn’t like the VAT hike: clearly aimed at the poorest. And Housing Benefit changes: designed to ethnically cleanse our city centres of the poorest.
At the same time, the amount raised in VAT from the poor is offset almost exactly by reductions in NI, income tax and corporation tax on the richest – a fundamental shift of the burden of tax from people with money to people without.
I can’t help but wonder how Liberal Democrats – if there still are any – sleep at night with their party supporting such right-wing lunacies.
And then there’s the corruption. The Conservatives came to power with a plan to severely weaken the BBC. They achieved that quickly and easily – all side in the House of Commons loathe an independent voice.
And here comes the corruption: We all wondered what James and Rupert at News International had been promised in return for the slavishly pro-Tory support of their stable of tabloid newspapers in the run up to the election (much of it, ironically, anti-LibDem more than pro-Tory).
With the former editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, ensconced in Downing Street despite the stench of scandal emanating from him, it was clear that the new government was not so much Tory-led as Murdoch-led.
It didn’t help when Vince Cable (ah, if ever there was a walking crushing disappointment, it must be the ineffectual and politically naive Business Secretary), seeking to big-up his role in front of some pretty ladies from the Telegraph managed to give Cameron the excuse he needed to hand decisions about Murdoch enterprises to an on-message Tory. Even better, that Tory was Jeremy Hunt, a man who lets the newspapers do his thinking for him because he isn’t really cut out for cerebral stuff like actual thought.
In the midst of all this, News announced it would quite like to own all of British Sky Broadcasting. “Doesn’t it already?”, many Tories asked. No, actually, it doesn’t. About 35% in fact. But the faux naivety of the Tories asking the question helped mask some important points.
News International is already by far the most dominant print media group in the entire country. It sets the news agenda day after day for literally millions of readers.
Sky is already by far the most dominant television group in the entire country. It holds the names, addresses and bank details of over half of the households in the nation. It writes to them all once a month and spends the rest of the month controlling what channels they have available to watch and what programmes are on most of those channels.
News loses money (probably: it doesn’t pay much tax here so it’s hard to tell). Sky makes billions. A News takeover of Sky gives James Murdoch complete control of the vast majority of the media in the UK and makes News profitable. Sky News is already pretty naked in its pro-Tory, anti-reform, pro-business, anti-youth line – the same line the newspapers take. A merged entity could go the whole hog and turn Sky News into Fox News UK.
This may not matter to you: you may only watch BBC news and only read the Grauniad. But it should matter. Media plurality is a one-way street. Once you set off down the road of concentrating it in the hands of one company, you cannot, ever, turn back.
If the news agenda each day is being set by Sky News, the Sun and the Times, working hand in hand and cross-promoting each other on Sky One, where is the room for alternate views? Sky News has already shown that coming on their channel and saying you’re pro-Proportional Representation is tantamount to treason in the eyes of their ‘top’ presenters. If Sky and News are put together, then Sky and News will dictate the agenda to politicians and to the public.
The Tory Culture Secretary has now ignored his independent media regulator and given Sky and News six months to come up with a cloak to hide his decision in their favour.
The only people who can now stop this are the Liberal Democrats.
Never mind the Liberals not sleeping at night – I worry if I’ll be able to.