Image for How the Murdoch press has waged a relentless campaign against the BBC (and why it’s worked)

The UK government’s recent Green Paper spells out a vision of far-smaller BBC. Coincidentally, this is just what Rupert Murdoch and his newspapers have campaigned for over decades.

Ever since Rupert Murdoch decided to enter the television game in the early 1980s, his newspapers have waged continuous war on public service broadcasters, and on the BBC in particular. These he sees purely as rivals in the broadcasting marketplace, and when Murdoch spots rivals his instinct is to exterminate them – witness, for example, the predatory pricing by Murdoch of his newspaper titles by means of which he attempted to throttle the Independent in the early 1990s.

As the man himself once said: “A monopoly is a terrible thing – until you get one.”

One of the first shots in Murdoch’s campaign against the BBC was a series of leaders in The Times in January 1985, the first of which argued: “The BBC should not survive this parliament in its present size, in its present form and with its present terms of reference intact.” And this is exactly the same tune which Murdoch’s papers have been playing ever since. Thus The Times of July 17, 2015, greeted the DCMS Green Paper on BBC Charter renewal with a leader headed “Slimming Auntie”, which argued: “For its own sake and the country’s, the BBC should emerge slimmer, more efficient and more accountable to those who pay its bills”.

The editorial went on to demand:

[The BBC] must rein in what George Osborne has called its ‘imperial’ online ambitions. The corporation is a broadcaster, not a publisher. It cannot expect a renewed charter to endorse a status quo that lets it trample on private sector rivals with public funds. Technology has allowed the BBC to expand as if on steroids.

Whose imperial ambitions?

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