James Murdoch has launched a scathing attack on the regulation of British broadcasting. Exactly 20 years after his father Rupert also delivered the MacTaggart Lecture to the Edinburgh International Television Festival, the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, Europe and Asia told the 2009 event that central planning had resulted in lost opportunities for enterprise, free choice and commercial investment.
At the heart of these “analogue attitudes in a digital age” were the “unaccountable institutions” of the BBC Trust, Channel 4 and Ofcom. Murdoch called for a dramatic reduction in the activities of the state, a move that unlike his criticisms of the BBC attracted some enthusiasm from broadcasting leaders at their annual gathering in Edinburgh.
According to Murdoch, Ofcom has over the past five years launched nearly 450 consultations, the equivalent of almost two a week. “The right path is all about trusting and empowering consumers. It is about embracing private enterprise and profit as a driver of investment, innovation and independence. And the dramatic reduction of the activities of the state in our sector.”
An example of the UK’s over-regulation, as seen by Murdoch is the rule that has prevented Star Plus from running ‘Are you smarter than a ten-year old?’ because the logo of an Indian mobile phone company is present on screen, even though the particular operator does not have a UK presence. “These rules often seem to have little connection with protecting people from real harm.”
Murdoch also referred to the European Commission decision to require the Premier League to split its broadcasting rights – a move that loosened Sky’s grip on live football – with the consequence that consumers were required to pay two subscriptions.
Murdoch went on to claim that that the BBC remained unchecked and described the record of the BBC Trust as abysmal.