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Bid to have Rupert Murdoch declared "unfit" to hold Sky licence

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Bid to have Rupert Murdoch declared "unfit" to hold Sky licence
TV regulator Ofcom urged to launch "fitness" inquiry under 1996 Broadcasting Act.

IN A couple of months Rupert Murdoch is expected to make a bid to become sole owner of the key satellite broadcaster Sky TV.

David Cameron has forged a new alliance with the media mogul and has the political clout to give him what he wants. This crowdfunding project will try and block that move.

It's part a new campaign — The People v Murdoch — and the first salvo has already been fired.

The bid has an Achilles Heel. In 2012 watchdog Ofcom held an inquiry to see if Rupert Murdoch and his family were “fit and proper” people under the 1996 Broadcasting Act. Back then Ofcom severely criticised James Murdoch’s handling of the phone hacking crisis.

But it stopped short of declaring him unfit. It found no evidence Rupert Murdoch was involved in allowing the scandal to happen — or in the Watergate-style cover-up that followed. 

But a huge amount of evidence has emerged since then. To give just one example, the Leveson Report was far more critical than Ofcom. Lord Justice Leveson condemned the breakdown of governance at Murdoch's companies. For more on this, see the Press Gang article Fightback.

Mastery of Sky will increase Murdoch's dominance of UK media to a new and dangerous level. Once he has control of Sky, he will move to weaken the TV watchdog Ofcom.

That will pave the way to turn Sky into the UK equivalent of his Fox network in the UK. Fox has debased American TV — its unregulated right wing agenda will bring Sun standards of journalism to British TV.

His previous bid foundered in 2011 with the revelation that the News of the World had hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. Despite losing over £300 million in the scandal that followed, Murdoch is stronger today that he was then. The reason: David Cameron and his cronies are back on side.

But millions of people in three continents — Europe, America and Australia — are deeply opposed to everything Murdoch stands for.

This campaign gives you the chance to back The People v MurdochInitially the call for funds is modest — the initial target is £1,000 to cover initial expenses.

But this struggle is probably going to be hideously expensive. For example, if Ofcom decides not to reopen the inquiry, The People v Murdoch can challenge it in court.

This is done by a process known as judicial review. Normally this is an expensive exercise — around £10,000. But this won’t simply be a case where The People v Murdoch take on Ofcom.

Murdoch will be allowed to join the action. That would escalate costs to £100,000 or more. The loser pays the costs. Sums like these are a drop in the ocean for Murdoch: he’s probably already shelled out over £100 million in legal fees in the various “dark arts” scandals.

But those who oppose him have no choice but to join battle. A win for Murdoch would be a disaster for a free media. A win for The People v Murdoch would break his grip on broadcasting in the UK. If Ofcom rules him "unfit" he would have to sell his Sky stake ...

If you're not in a position to donate, consider signing the 38degrees petition calling on Ofcom to launch the "fitness" inquiry. The link is here.

Welcome aboard!


Risks and Challenges

Up against a determined billionaire ...