The BBC finally grows a backbone and goes after one of Theresa May’s biggest allies [VIDEO]

May BBC Murdoch
Tracy Keeling

The BBC‘s Amol Rajan faced off with Rupert Murdoch on 8 May. Their scrappy exchange surrounded the allegations of sexual and ethnic harassment currently engulfing Murdoch’s Fox News; and the effect these accusations may have on Ofcom’s investigation of the media mogul’s bid to takeover Sky in the UK.

But Murdoch recently received some good news on this front. Because Theresa May’s decision to call a general election has delayed Ofcom’s investigation into the bid. So the UK government has essentially gifted Murdoch an extra month-long window to get his company in order.

Second time, unlucky

Murdoch wants to take full control of Sky. He currently owns 39% of the company. His first takeover attempt was in 2010. But the phone hacking scandal at Murdoch’s News of the World thwarted that effort.

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The media regulator, Ofcom, is now investigating whether the UK government should approve the current bid. Ofcom is investigating whether the takeover gives Murdoch too much media control in the UK. And it is assessing if Murdoch is a “fit and proper” owner.

But the BBC‘s Amol Rajan caught up with Murdoch in New York. And he pressed the media mogul on the impact the allegations against Fox News may have on the bid.

Rajan asked:

Are you worried about Ofcom at all?

Murdoch replied:

No. You should be worried about the BBC yourselves.

So Murdoch brushed off the Ofcom probe, along with the suggestion that the problems at Fox News could impact the bid. And he asserted that it is in fact the BBC itself that is under threat.

Fit and proper?

The Fox News scandal erupted in the midst of the bid. A number of women allege they were sexually and ethnically harassed at the US outlet. On 8 May, Lisa Bloom, a lawyer representing several of the women, spoke to Ofcom. She said:

I believe that a company that so openly flouts the laws and our values and your values should not be rewarded with a multi-billion-dollar deal that will enable it to bring its culture of sexual and racial harassment and retaliation to the UK.

Since the accusations came to light, three of Fox News‘ top staff – all male – have left the company. And its parent company 21st Century Fox claims it has taken “prompt and decisive action” to address the allegations.

But the company doesn’t have to be quite as “prompt” as it originally thought. Because of the UK’s general election. Ofcom was due to submit its reports to Culture Secretary Karen Bradley on 16 May. But after May announced the election, Bradley delayed the due date until 20 June. Essentially because the government can’t make such “large and/or contentious” decisions before a general election. In case the incoming government has different ideas.

On this occasion, however, it does mean Murdoch’s company has a much bigger window to take its “prompt and decisive” action.

‘Beware, BBC, or anyone who stands in my way’

But how does Murdoch know that Ofcom won’t be a problem? Or that the BBC is heading for trouble? He, of course, is famous for once reportedly saying:

When I go into Downing Street, they do what I say; when I go to Brussels, they take no notice.

And he’s still having his meetings with Downing Street. But these days, the Prime Minister goes to Murdoch in New York. Rather than the mogul travelling to her.

That Murdoch is essentially a surprise winner in this election – with an extended period of time to clean up his mess – is galling. And that he thinks it’s okay to be dismissive of Ofcom and threaten the BBC is even worse.

But whether Murdoch’s winning streak will continue is as yet unknown. That will likely depend on who’s elected on 8 June.

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Featured image via DFID/Flickr

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