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And the fourth reason why I think Rebekah Brooks will stay? Well, they’ll probably shut down the News Of The World instead. I’d like to point out, at no point yesterday did I think that Rebekah Brooks should stay, just I thought that she will and News International’s actions yesterday supported this idea entirely. When the announcement was leaked yesterday afternoon that this Sunday’s edition would run ad-free, it already seemed that the Murdoch empire was once again trying to reclaim the story. And then they went and ended one of the longest running papers in the country. Like everyone else, I was not expecting that.
This also led to one of the best Question Time‘s that there’s been this series. Chris Grayling wasn’t exactly memorable suffering from rabbit in the headlights syndrome but it didn’t matter. Hugh Grant was surprisingly well versed about the subject and also quite non-partisan. Jon Gaunt at the other end of the table felt it his responsibility to pick up the battle axe every time Hugh opened his mouth, and he’s the only one who didn’t take a beating from former actor. Jon Gaunt was on his best behaviour until he brought up Divine Brown, which was by far the cheapest shot the night.
As much discussion was launched by the topic of the NOTW, not many dividing lines could be drawn. Everyone is in agreement that some individuals crossed the line with the recently emerged phone hacking stories; no-one disputes that. Everyone on the panel and audience was in agreement that Rebekah still needed to go. And the odd person brought up the fact that other papers should probably receive the same scrutiny. No matter where you lie in a privacy/freedom of press argument, it is hard not to agree with those things.
Where the real discussion began was when the topic was turned to the BSkyB takeover and this question, as I tweeted, infuriates me. The takeover of BSkyB does not have anything to do with one of News International’s many publications nearly a decade ago. Nor do I think it would, if they were to have happened yesterday. As shown brilliant in Peter Oborne’s “What the papers won’t say,” there are far worse media enterprises than News International not covering phone hacking/bad practice stories. And Sky News were reporting on the events as much as the BBC were. Yes The Sun left out a few pages of headlines but then what do you expect? Yet it isn’t just this issue that irks me when people talk about it.
The main reason is that there is no problem with the BSkyB deal ideologically. Murdoch has built an empire of successes and now, despite the efforts on the contrary by the socialists in the country, he has a chance to expand that success. It is the nature of any businessman. Limiting a company’s success, as with trying to stop the BSkyB takeover, only makes industry fail in general. I’m not even half way through Atlas Shrugged yet, but my God can we get some people a copy of this book please?
As Jon Gaunt said brilliantly last night: ‘If you don’t like Fox News, switch over.’ Which is the only answer to this misguided and exclusively politicised ‘debate’. The idea that Murdoch chooses who wins elections because his papers my support someone politically, or that if he had ‘control’ of Sky, he would have ‘too much power’, is absurd, but mostly it’s insulting. Can people not think for themselves? Can they really not make their own mind up? Can people really not, just switch over? If people didn’t like his programming, they would switch over and stop buying his product. And as a businessman that would make him change, not some drawn out battle about media plurality.
The greater problem with the media is that we are still forced to pay a license fee to the BBC. The left keep schtum when it comes to this issue; that we are forced to pay for a biased broadcasting network and literally have no choice in the matter. Privatise the BBC and let it go head-to-head with Sky if you want to even the playing field, but don’t try and throw restrictions on a company because they do well. Christ, it really does make you worry about the world we live in sometimes.
Anyway, with five minutes of Question Time left a question was diverted to train manufacturing and work being sent overseas. I was not the only one shocked on my Twitterfeed to find that Baroness Williams was the only one to stand up for the free markets over protectionism.
Overall it was a great Question Time, the panel was well selected and well humoured. That even, begrudgingly, goes for Hugh as well – although it wasn’t quite worth seeing the five hundred odd people I follow on Twitter, swooning every time there was a wide angle shot. Political Scrapbook was on form last night with its appropriate mocking and that’s probably the first time I’ve said that! Elsewhere in the evening’s political coverage, I hear that Kirsty Wark absolutely destroyed Ed Miliband and so I think I’m going to watch that with breakfast.