22 November 2010
The Church of England has today added its voice to those calling
for News Corporation not to be permitted to buy the remaining
shares in broadcaster BSkyB.
In a submission to media regulator Ofcom's consultation on the
proposed purchase, the Church's lead spokesman on media issues, the
Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, says:
"This inquiry is welcome and timely because the vitality and
plurality of the media, especially in combination with a strong
public service remit, is essential to the maintenance of a
well-informed democracy. There is an ongoing need for strong and
effective regulation of cross-media ownership and media plurality.
In Lord Puttnam's words, the "overriding interest of the citizen"
demands that there should be no diminution in the range of views
and voices that can hold government and other interests to account.
It is important to preserve a healthy media environment in which
many different and diverse organisations, including public service
broadcasters, can flourish.
"Our concerns are not about the nature of News Corporation:
indeed, we would make these comments whichever commercial
organisation might find itself in a potentially dominant market
"A News Corporation in full control of BSkyB would combine one
of the three significant suppliers of TV news (BBC, ITN and BSkyB),
one of the two suppliers of radio news (BBC, BSkyB) and the group
with the biggest market share of national press in the UK. It would
dominate both the television and newspaper landscape.
"Many critics of the bid have highlighted the potential dangers
to the integrity of Sky News. Sky News has won a well-deserved
reputation for innovation and the quality of its journalism. Though
BSkyB is not a public service broadcaster, Sky News contributes to
public service purposes in the broadest sense. Even though its
market share is small it has, for example, often been an
influential voice in political debate. If BSkyB comes under the
full control of News Corporation, however, the fear is that even
though Sky News would still have to abide by requirements for due
impartiality, there would always be the potential for the exercise
of subtle editorial influence, not least in the process of
selecting which news items are to be covered and which left
"In the case, therefore, that the bid is allowed, the public
have a right to expect, at the very minimum, an assurance that the
independence and editorial integrity of Sky News will be preserved.
Even if the News Corporation bid is not allowed, it would be a
positive commitment to media plurality if BSkyB were to take the
opportunity to reassert its existing commitment to the editorial
independence of Sky News and its continuing contribution to public
Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch
The Bishop of Manchester
Lead spokesman on media issues
Church of England