Oh dear, a Murdoch has got all nervy and tizzy about regulation and accused a state-owned broadcaster of being paranoid.

No, the Murdoch concerned isn’t moaning about Australia, China or India. It’s James Murdoch making a bid to be a clone of his dad in the whining stakes. He’s bagged British media regulation and accused the BBC of being paranoid.

This from a man whose family and media companies have benefited from a privileged position in UK media regulation and which managed to pinch the broadcasts of the Ashes cricket by lobbying a government minister.

It’s also a bit rich coming from someone whose company has made a virtue out of riding the regulation train and being a highly skilled rent-seeker, the latest example being raiding commercial free-to-air rival, ITV and buying a blocking 17% stake that is now subject to possible further investigation by a British regulator.

Reports said son James did the right thing by calling for less regulation and a free market in the industry.

“Arguing in favour of the free market still causes raised eyebrows in the cosy world of UK broadcasting,” British newspapers quoted Murdoch as saying. “Too many people in broadcasting have been brought up in this straightjacket of heavily regulated and interventionist structure. In an era of constant change, a good umpire sets the rules and watches the game flow unless those rules are flouted. A bad one gets in the way.”

His comments came as regulators prepare to review Sky’s £940 million ($A2.3 billion) acquisition of a 17.9% stake in broadcaster ITV. The purchase has raised concerns over the potential influence the pay-TV company could have over free-to-air ITV’s operations.

Murdoch also criticised the BBC, Britain’s public broadcaster, for “fantasising about creating a ‘British Google’,” to be funded by taxpayers. “This is not public service, it’s megalomania,” Murdoch said.

Sounds so much like Dad, the rent-seeker par excellence, that it’s scary. Remember the way an Australian Government changed the law to allow Rupert Murdoch to own media in this country even though he was an American and prevented from doing so? And the way his holdings were nicely cosseted by being grandfathered and not subject to the law?

There are echoes of James Packer’s recent threat to resist regulation of the free TV market in Australia if a new commercial TV rival is allowed by the Federal Government.

The best comment on the James Packer call came from The Independent‘s Business commentator, Michael Harrison who said:

Inviting James Murdoch to a debate on broadcasting regulation was tantamount to asking Herod to open a new branch of Mothercare and sure enough, there weren’t many survivors.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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