'Ofcom Should Oversee BBC,' Murdoch Tells UK Minister

11 November 2005

At a secret meeting this summer between James Murdoch, ceo of the family-controlled UK satellite monopoly BSkyB, and culture, media and sport secretary Tessa Jowell, the former expressed his concerns at the way the BBC is regulated.

Antipathy toward the publicly-owned British broadcasting giant is a family trait. Paterfamilias Murdoch and the BBC have nothing to learn from the Hatfields and McCoys when it comes to bloody feuding.

The ongoing vendetta between the two media mammoths stems partly from a clash between their respective rightist and liberal leanings. There is also intensive commercial competition between some sectors of the BBC and News Corporation's UK interests.

The issue is further sensitized by the fact that the political survival of the Blair administration depends heavily on the support of the Murdoch newspaper and TV camps.

Thursday's The Guardian newspaper reported it had seen a confidential minute of a meeting between Murdoch minor and secretary Jowell during the summer. This reveals that the former complained about the cross-promotion of BBC services via its legion of TV, radio, publishing and internet channels.

According to the press report, Jowell undertook to examine the cross-promotion issue as part of the government's review of the corporation's upcoming ten-year charter. NewsCorp "strongly believes the BBC should be brought within the ambit of regulation by [UK media watchdog] Ofcom" .

The Murdoch line is that "each BBC channel and radio station ... should have a specific remit and a set of measurable criteria - this should be judged by Ofcom". The family also argues that "responsibility for determining whether the BBC has complied with the fair trading commitment should lie with Ofcom".

Currently the BBC operates outside Ofcom's remit, responsible solely to a publicly-appointed board of governors. A white paper on the BBC's new charter - which will run from 2007 - is expected to be published shortly.

Data sourced from MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff