"... here's a reminder of what Hunt was about to unleash on the country, with Cameron and George Osborne's approval. If Murdoch were allowed to own all BSkyB, within a year or two he would package all his newspapers on subscription or online together with his movie and sports channels in offers consumers could hardly refuse, at loss-leading prices. Other news providers, including this one, would be driven out, or reduced to a husk. His would be the commanding news voice. Except for the BBC – which his media have attacked relentlessly for years.
Sky's dominance over the BBC is already looming: now past its investment phase, Sky's income is multiplying fast at £5.5bn a year, against the BBC's static £3.5bn. Sky's growing billions can buy everything, not only sports and movies, but every best series: the BBC trains and develops talent, predatory Sky will snatch it. Nor is Sky that good for the Treasury: for every £1 in Sky subscriptions, 90p flees the country, straight to News Corp and Hollywood in the US.
The BBC is remarkable value for money: Sky subscribers can pay £500 a year, the licence fee is £145 for masses more content. Sky is parasitic, as its own subscribers watch many more hours of BBC than Sky, so Sky would collapse if the BBC denied it its channels. Yet the BBC still pays £5m a year for appearing on its platform, a deal struck by Thatcher to help Murdoch.
The sum was cut, but in all other countries commercial broadcasters pay national broadcasters for the right to use their content – not the other way round. The BBC should be paid a hefty fee from BSkyB to compensate for the 16% cut it suffered, partly as a result of Murdoch lobbying. The cut was pure spite, since the licence fee has no connection with Treasury deficits. Pressure persists to deprive viewers of listed national events saved to watch free on BBC: Wimbledon and the rest would go the way of Premier League football ...."
At the beginning of the eighteenth century, navigators blundered around the world with great skill and a lot of luck. Their ‘circle of uncertainty’ was four or five hundred miles wide. Once their ships left harbour they didn’t know where they were with any great accuracy and their charts didn’t show where the land and the shallow bits were with any accuracy whatsoever. They were all at sea, throughout their lives - which were often short and always adventurous, perhaps rather too exciting (and certainly too tough) for modern tastes.
Now, our ‘circles of uncertainty’ are physically tiny. We know exactly where we are, wherever we stray to, because of GPS. Our lives are much longer, much less hazardous, much less stimulating. What have we lost? Ourselves?
Within ourselves, the ‘circles of uncertainty’ are very large indeed. We don’t know who we are, we have forgotten where we come from. A politician once said (quite proudly) that she thought there was no such thing as society. So where precisely do we belong? How do we orientate ourselves in life?
A spiritual sextant would come in useful. Position lines for the soul, perhaps. A religion that we could all believe in.