Quasi-judicial nonsense

Can we please end all this nonsense about the decision on News Corporation’s takeover of BSkyB being “quasi-judicial”.  It’s not, it never was and it never will be.

Naturally, it’s always suited the oligopolists to pretend that somehow how the economy is run and who controls it are no concern of mere politicians.  Thus it was that a few months ago when Vince Cable incautiously revealed his views to a Telegraph sting operation he had his knuckles very smartly rapped despite the fact that he was merely expressing views that an overwhelming majority of Lib Dems would have shared even then.  Thus it was also that earlier today Radio 4’s World at One reported that, “Culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has written to Ofcom seeking fresh advice on News Corp’s takeover bid for BSkyB.” 

And who is Ofcom?  Craig Murray takes a very dim view of its board.   If asked to opine, this unelected bunch of quangocrats might just turn out to be entirely impartial and judicial?  But they just as easily might not to be.  Most probably they would go down the “His Master’s Voice” route – divining the real view (not necessarily the publicly expressed view) of the ruling establishment (in this case Cameron and Co) and recommending that.  It’s what good bureaucrats do.

But, whatever they might do it would most certainly be done far from the sterilizing glare of any daylight.  This is not the proper way to conduct public business.

Consider this; many consider the way appointments are made to the House of Lords to be an affront because of the supposed lack of democratic legitimacy.  Maybe so.  But where does that leave News Corp which gives Murdoch far more power than any dozen or two of the noble Lords?  He has consistently used his power as a press baron to promote his own right-wing views; kowtowing at his court has become a feature of the run up to general elections?  And he’s not even a citizen.

So I say forget the “quasi-judicial” nonsense.

Parliament should, in effect, “call in” the decision.  Ofcom, the Competition Commission and other unelected bodies may be suitable venues for day-to-day stuff but they are most certainly not the proper forum for this debate.   It is pretty obvious that Murdoch doesn’t have majority support in the Commons; even Cameron may be too embarrassed to support him overtly.

So, following the excellent dictum that no good crisis should go to waste, lets take the opportunity to sort this out and take a POLITICAL decision, not just to kick the can down the road, but to say once and for all that News Corporation is not a suitable owner for BSkyB.  And as a first approximation that means reducing their shareholding to 25% or less or News Corp retains effective control.





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