It’s not often that you get to see the entrails of a high-level
political lobbying campaign, especially a campaign conducted on behalf
of the Murdoch family. So take a look at this story in yesterday’s
British Guardian – “How Murdoch plans to win friends and influence people” –
– which lifts the lid on the way the world’s most powerful media family
uses a UK Labour spin doctor to gain the ear of policy-makers:

The unvarnished truth about how James Murdoch’s
Sky bends the ear of government and shapes the public policy debate has
come to light in an eight-page memorandum circulating in the City of
London.

Entitled “Project proposals and tools to communicate
public affairs messages”, it is addressed to Matthew Anderson, Sky’s
recently appointed head of communications, from Tim Allan, the seasoned
New Labour spin doctor who has been advising Sky since leaving Downing
Street seven years ago.

The story goes on to quote from the lobbying proposal,
which suggests that the UK Minister for Culture, Tessa Jowell, might be
tapped as joint host of a seminar on “maximising creative industry
benefit of television in the UK, followed by Westminster/Whitehall
reception”:

“An early evening seminar offering the secretary
of state a keynote address opportunity … with a further speech by
James Murdoch. A third panel member, eg, a respected media commentator,
could present a wider view of the industry,” the memo suggests. “The
creative industries theme should give Tessa a sufficiently wide topic
to give a pertinent policy perspective. At the same time it should
allow James to explain how technological advances in television and
consumer preferences are changing … The event would be immediately
followed by the annual Sky reception for Westminster and Whitehall ….
James could give a very short speech of thanks.”

According to TheGuardian, a key part of
Sky’s political lobbying campaign is a series of proposed lunches
hosted by James Murdoch, along with senior members of his Sky
management team:

The plan is to focus “on the
interplay between Sky and the government,” with Mr Murdoch mapping out
Sky’s commercial strategy, technological changes and consumer
preferences. “The guest would be asked to comment on their perceptions
of Sky, trends in broadcasting/business policy as well as wider
political insight.” Separately, Mr Allan suggests a couple of “Rising
Star” dinners, listing 15 up and coming MPs from each of the Labour and
Tory parties, and four senior political advisers from each camp.

Not the kind of story likely to get a big run in The Times or The Sun.

Peter Fray

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