British Government Investigating Murdoch Media holdings; Murdoch wants British Sky News to be more like rightwing Fox
Owen Gibson, media correspondent
Saturday November 24 2007
The media mogul Rupert Murdoch has said he wants Sky News to become more like his rightwing US network Fox News, and revealed the extent of his editorial grip on his British newspapers to a House of Lords committee.
The communications committee, chaired by Lord Fowler, toured the US in September to meet media executives, regulators and consumer groups as part of an inquiry into media ownership. Their conversations were made public yesterday in detailed minutes.
Murdoch said he wanted Sky News, which has confounded cynics by maturing into a well-funded and award-winning 24-hour news operation, to be more like Fox News to make it "a proper alternative to the BBC".
Due to the lack of impartiality laws in the US, Fox News became successful as a rightwing counterpoint to the perceived leftwing leanings of its rivals.
Murdoch said Sky may become more like Fox, even if there was no overhaul of news impartiality laws by Ofcom, by copying its presentational style. He complained that changes had not been made because "nobody at Sky listens to me". The BSkyB chief executive is his son James.
Murdoch, 76, recently added the Wall Street Journal to an empire that includes 20th Century Fox, the Times, the Sun, a stake in BSkyB, MySpace and interests in South America, Asia and Australia.
Murdoch restated his antipathy towards British legislators and regulators, saying the UK was "anti-success" and this had prevented him from expanding his media empire further. They kept investigating his purchases on the grounds of plurality, he said, but he had invested in plurality by keeping the Times afloat and putting 200 channels on the air through Sky.
He claimed the government's concern about cross-media ownership was "10 years out of date" given the proliferation of media outlets, and said concern over BSkyB's purchase of a 17.9% stake in rival ITV stemmed from "paranoia".
Next month John Hutton, secretary of state for business, enterprise and regulatory reform, will receive the Competition Commission's final verdict on the matter and decide what action to take.
In the minutes, Murdoch distinguished between the Times and the Sunday Times, in which he said he did not interfere in editorial matters, and the Sun and the News of the World, where he said he acted like "a traditional proprietor". "He exercises editorial control on major issues - like which party to back in a general election or policy on Europe," said the minutes.