Politicians tighten screw on Murdoch's British empire | world | Hindustan Times
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Politicians tighten screw on Murdoch's British empire

world Updated: Mar 02, 2012 02:27 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar

The British government was Thursday facing powerful calls to limit the ability of corporations to own a range of media groups, a day after the resignation of News International (NI) chief James Murdoch over the phone-hacking scandal.

Calls for regulating cross-media ownership were led by opposition Labour party leader Ed Miliband, who has been a vocal advocate for a crackdown on NI over charges of illegal hacking of phones and police corruption.

"It's right that James Murdoch has gone," said Miliband.

"But we've got to ask why this culture of corruption was able to develop at News International and the reason was that News International thought it was too big to be challenged, including by politicians.

"That's why we need new rules in place at the end of all this process so that one organisation cannot control that much of the newspaper and television market… so that the stain on British journalism is removed."

Currently, British rules dating back to 2003 have few restrictions on cross-media ownership. But Miliband's demand is also backed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Moves to change ownership rules are only likely to begin once an ongoing inquiry, headed by judge Brian Leveson, completes its work with the first report expected in September.

Miliband, by seeking to link corruption with political patronage and lack of regulation, is echoing the national mood.

The Murdoch tabloid News of the World was closed down by James last year amid national outrage over the phone-hacking of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old girl who had been murdered. Last week, Rupert launched a new titled, The Sun on Sunday.

NI, the British arm of Murdoch's US-based News Corp, is the single most powerful privately-owned opinion-maker in Britain and is considered to be kingmakers, with access to prime ministers and senior politicians. It owns the Sun, its Sunday edition, the Times, the Sunday Times and a controlling 39% of BSkyB.

According to UK media regulator Ofcom, the group's British newspapers reach 14.5 million people per week, while BSkyB's Sky TV and radio services reach another 45 million. But, equally, James has described the taxpayer-funded BBC's size and ambition as "chilling."