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Thursday, 17 March 2011

Submission to consultation on News Corp takeover of BSkyB

This is my submission to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's accelerated and limited public consultation into the proposed take-over of BSkyB by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

The closing date for submissions is 21st March, so there's still time to submit your own here.

The Secretary of State for Culture Jeremy Hunt has decided to limit this consultation to media plurality for reasons stated here.  I decided to ignore this restriction in my own brief submission.

I'm concerned that the proposed buy-out will impact competition and plurality in the online news market, and this aspect may not have been fully assessed.  I therefore urge the Secretary of State to refer this deal for Competition Review.

My concerns stem from the estimated 2.5 million broadband subscribers using BSkyB's internet service Sky Broadband.  The proposed deal could put News Corporation in a position to give discounted, bundled or preferential access for Sky Broadband subscribers to its online news titles; in particular its non-free services such as The Times, News of The World and The Daily (iPad newspaper).

This dominant position could adversely effect other publishers in the online news sector if News Corporation chose to promote News Corporation's online titles to Sky Broadband customers (so-called "cross-promotion" deals).  It may also give News Corporation a dominant position in the sale of advertising slots should the company decide to offer cross-media deals providing TV, online and printed newspaper advertising; and this may have an adverse impact on competition in the market for advertising.

The deal might restrict the plurality of news sources accessed by a bulk of Sky Broadband subscribers if, for example, News Corporation decided to promote its own online news content on its portal services, such as launch pages provided by default to subscribers of an ISP.

This deal could potentially lead to a closed market of news - TV and online - for BSkyB customers, and provide serious challenges for other online newspapers looking for new ways to make online journalism pay.

James Firth
 I hope that captures my feelings on the matter!


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