James Murdoch launched an all out attack on the market dominance of the BBC tonight (full video here) - confirming my thoughts on this blog on 10th August.
He started by stating his belief in a 'Darwinian' survival of the fittest/unplanned/free-market solution to media provision stating that the consumer would be best served by open competition in the marketplace. He was advocating the avoidance of government interference in the market for the benefit of the public.
Conversely, he then complained about the lack of government interference in framing intellectual property laws - at which point he looked inconsistent.
He then went on to rail at the BBC and the way in which it's public funding was causing 'unintended consequences' in the marketplace and thereby preventing other media organisations from making a profit in delivering news services for the benefit of the consumer. He also slipped in some Orwellian references - casting the BBC as corrupt 'state media'.
It was a fairly reasonable attempt to make a strong case for slashing the role of the BBC for the benefit of the consumer - the people. His basic prescription was that the BBC should not operate in areas that were 'well served' by the market.
It sounds logical. Why should the BBC be allowed to operate in areas where it can deliver content to the market free - thereby preventing commercial operations from doing so.
But. There are some other points to consider..
Large media organisations have huge economies of scale. So, if media provision were to be liberalised or, in other words, the BBC's areas of activities were to be drastically scaled back, the major beneficiary would be the existing large-scale media organisation.
Lets simplify this. If the BBC were cut back, who would fill the void? - Largely Sky and News International.
It wouldn't usher in an exciting outburst of creative talent and the creation of thousands of new media delivery companies. It would just mean that Sky would dominate the TV market and News International would be able to stop losing money on Newspapers - because they, and the rest of the market, could start charging for content.
The central issue in all of this is one that goes straight to the heart of democracy.
A democracy is defined by the right of it's people to choose their government. And people make their decisions based on the information that they have - or in reality, that they are given. If that information is largely delivered by a 'state media' organisation that is controlled/intimidated into compliance by the incumbent government then it's a bad thing for democracy because the ability of the people to change that government is severly hampered.
But if the alternative is to get their information from a market dominating, completely unaccountable, commercial organisation with it's own agenda then that is perhaps even more dangerous to democracy.
Perhaps James Murdoch was right to point out that the BBC really has no business operating to the extent that it does in many areas. It makes sense to liberate the market. But does it make sense to abandon media provision to the 'unplanned' free-market solution - free of government interference or regulation as Mr Murdoch advocates?
We have seen the outcome of lax regulation in the financial markets - disaster. But I guess if Gordon Brown has done it once he could do it again - make a deal with Murdoch to support the Govt at the next election, a bit more 'light-touch' regulation and hey-presto, give it a couple of years and the BBC's dominance is replaced by Sky/News International..
So lets hope neither the government or the opposition starting doing deals that would ultimately give away control of our democracy to an International corporation.
Remember the Bond Movie of 1997 - Tomorrow Never Dies?
It's all about a media mogul (Elliot Carver) who seeks world-domination. A friend 'in the business' told me years ago that the scene at the launch of Carver's worldwide news network, where all the lights go off just at the crucial moment, was inspired by an event at Battersea Powerstation at the launch of SKY - the lights went off at the crucial moment.
Third time lucky? - Lets hope not.
Here's the movie trailer below. I never thought that Elliot Carver was particularly good casting as Rupert Murdoch - he looks too ordinary.
But James Murdoch. Now that works - particularly the glasses - presumably worn to obscure the wild glint of meglomania in his eyes!