Not the only game in town 

18 January 2010 tbs.pm/1120

Cost of TV sport to tumble as Ofcom turns screw on Sky

Some people appear to be rather puzzled as to why the Conservatives in particular seem ambivalent towards Ofcom’s move to lower wholesale pay-TV sports pricing, and it’s not because Ofcom is likely to become toast after the next election either. (Even if the Tories don’t get a landslide majority.)

Firstly, News Corporation (and the Murdochs) may still be influential but they aren’t the only large corporate media player in the marketplace; BT and Richard Branson’s Virgin Media (BSkyB’s main potential competitors) are but two of them, and News Corp’s position is even less dominant in the area of newspaper publishing.

On top of this – as News Corporation is suddenly finding out the hard way – the media landscape in general is shifting to such an extent that political opinions contained within newspapers may no longer make or break elections, plus new media giants like Google have sprung out of nowhere since the Conservatives were last in power.

(The very forces that News Corp seem hell-bent on attempting to control with their planned online content charging scheme.)

If the Conservatives do turn a blind eye to any enforced pay-TV cost lowering, it would fit in well with the mantra for increased competition/consumer ‘choice’ leading to lower prices for sports fans and would be very popular with the electorate in general, even if David Cameron no longer appears on James Murdoch’s Christmas card list as a consequence.

It has to be said that although BSkyB has pumped a lot of money into football in particular over the years, this hasn’t stopped a whole litany of financial problems recently affecting even top clubs such as Liverpool and Manchester United, even if those problems have ultimately been the result of other factors.

And some sports and teams have seen great dividends at the expense of others, with a large disparity between rich and poor clubs. There’s no point boasting about “grass roots” sports training and investment when opportunities for sport beyond a hobby remain limited, because very few players will ever be good enough for top flight competition.

Perhaps the only move left for the Murdochs would be some form of attempted political destablisation in order to force a political right-wing shift, but total deregulation is currently off the menu after the mess that was made of the world economy as a consequence of the banks doing what they wanted with nobody to stop them.

Therefore having both the Conservatives and Labour united against the Murdochs could ultimately leave Rupert and James shouting at a brick wall for all the good that it will do them if they have nobody to turn to for favours.