back to article Ofcom: The Office of Screwing Over Murdoch?

There are several winners in the wake of News Corp's collapsed BSkyB takeover, but the most unlikely is one we’ve all overlooked. It might surprise you, too. In 2009 David Cameron promised a “bonfire of the quangos” if the Conservatives took power. He singled out one quango in particular: Ofcom. The uber-regulator was created …

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Bottling it

There are many good reasons to criticise Ofcom, but 'having their own branded water' isn't one of them. It's not expensive to get some frosted bottles with resealable caps and your logo on the side that can be refilled from the tap (or using a 'Sodastream' if you prefer fizzy) and used to impress guests.

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Re: Bottling it

Yup, about £3.95 from John Lewis, in pretty colours, refil from your water filter or tap, saves money actually, and eco-friendly.

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Re: Bottling it

We've got the same thing at our office (in fact, the bottles look identical to ours, other than the logo) - much cheaper than buying bottled water, and much more environmentally friendly.

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Headmaster

Having followed the line of reasoning in this article as carefully as I can.........

...........I have a question to pose. Are you suggesting that News Corp should have been allowed to take over BSkyB completely? Is there not another explanation for Ofcom's apparent change of style? For most of the Blair/Brown years the then government was terrified of Murdoch (not entirely difficult to understand given what NI's newspapers did to Labour throughout the eighties and early nineties until it dawned on Murdoch that the Tories had reached the point of unelectability) and would have done everything they could to stymie any moves by Ofcom to move against NI for any reason. The then opposition Tories would most certainly have not supported any moves against Murdoch's company because they very badly wanted Murdoch back onside. Once Ofcom knew that they could tackle Murdoch without political interference (because by this time NI was about as popular with the voters as syphilis and the new Tory government did not dare hinder Ofcom) they did - and about time too.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Having followed the line of reasoning in this article as carefully as I can.........

Yes, there was no rational basis to refer the takeover on competition and plurality grounds. To block the merger on these grounds, Ofcom had to bend the rules. This is what it did.

As for "suitability", YMMV. But that's a separate argument.

Hunt referred the bid to the CoCo after BSkyB withdrew the undertakings, it had basically changed its mind about the takeover by then.

The rest of your post is interesting but speculative.

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Re: Having followed the line of reasoning in this article as carefully as I can.........

Ofcom has been singularly poor at promoting competition in the industries it regulates. Ownership of BSkyB is of less interest than the failure to break up the rights monopoly on, say, Premier League matches after the collapse of Setanta.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Having followed the line of reasoning in this article as carefully as I can.........

"News Corp’s products do not dominate any significant market, even where they’re an important player. Virgin Media competes in Pay TV and broadband bundles, and The Telegraph competes in upmarket newspapers, for example."

Sorry, but the shear naivety shown in this post is staggering. VM competes? Sorry, it competes in the few areas you can get it. It doesn't even run cable to large sections of London. I can, however, get BSkyB pretty much anywhere. Sky has over 10m subscribers, VM has 3.4m. That's dominate in paytv else they wouldn't have had to wholesale anything. Add their little soiree with ITV part ownership to prevent takeover and you can see some Microsoft behaviour creeping in.

Doesn't dominate the press? How do you define dominating? In 2011 the News of The World and the Sunday Times had 38.5% of the market (nearest rival 19.75%). In the same year The Sun and The Times held 32% of the daily market if the Evening Standard is included, and 34% if it is not (nearest rival 21%). The figures will be worse if the Scottish press are excluded, I'd call that a dominating influence in the Sunday press for sure.

In short, cry me a f*cking river. The man and his corporations are nothing but parasites in my opinion and he has thoroughly earned any shitty treatment he gets. Notice how he's desperate to get away from any claims regarding influencing politicians - principally due to the US laws regarding the corruption of Government officials I'd dare say.

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Re: Re: Having followed the line of reasoning in this article as carefully as I can.........

Your numbers don't add up. The domination is imaginary, and tiny compared to established networks (US) and the BBC (UK).

What you're saying is:

"I really, really hate Murdoch, and I don't think he should be allowed to do business where I live."

Which is fine. But don't throw your toys out of the pram when people point out you're being irrational and medieval.

As for politicians: did Gordon Brown *really* have to invite the Murdochs to his daughter's funeral? Did Cameron *really* have to employ Andy Coulson?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Having followed the line of reasoning in this article as carefully as I can.........

My numbers don't add up? I'll reveal my source - wikipedia. Free for everyone to search - UK newspaper circulation etc. Now give us yours.

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Orlowski gets it wrong

The Milly Dowler revelations did not "turn out to be false". One aspect of the original Gruaniad story was wrong: that Murdoch's hacks deleted messages from the dead girl's phone to make way for more incoming messages. It later emerged these messages had expired automatically from her voicemail.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/oct/21/phone-hacking-dowlers

The fundamental facts of the story are correct. The News of the Screws DID hack into the dead girl's phone and listen to her voicemail. News International (proprietor R. Murdoch) paid £2m+ compensation to the girl's family and the Dirty Digger himself made a personal donation of £1m to charity. This would not have happened if the Milly Dowler revelations were as false as the line Orlowski is trying to spin.

In addition News International has not disputed that the News of the Screws hacked Milly Dowler's phone. Which they would have done if the story was untrue. ISTR the latest, proper police investigation into phone hacking confirmed that the News of the Screws had hacked Milly Dowler's phone.

The News of the Screws also interfered with the police investigation into Milly Dowler's abduction and murder. They left fake voicemail messages suggesting the dead girl was trying to find work via an employment agency. (IIRC the phone number on left on those voicemail messages was actually a contact for a Murdoch hack.) This resulted in police chasing up bogus leads in the wrong part of the country.

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Re: Orlowski gets it wrong

The Guardian story insinuated that NoW staff deleted voicemails giving the Dowler parents the false hope that their daughter was alive.

This caused huge public revulsion, leading to the NoW closure and Leveson. It was wrong: NoW staff did not delete emails. Voicemails were removed by the system as they were replaced by newer voicemails on a FIFO basis.

Your bias is preventing you from acknowledging this.

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FAIL

Jim Morrow Gets it wrong

NOTW did not fake the recruitment agency message - it was a wrong number.

Link

Secondly El Reg commentards have a duty to avoid emotive word hacking the trivial task of accessing voicemail.

You sir are as bad as you claim Mr Orlowski to be.

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Re: Orlowski gets it wrong

I never heard about the emails -- I only heard about the voicemails. The email claims could not possibly have caused me to be any more revulsed than I already was. I doubt many people would say any different. They couldn't have gotten any lower unless they'd started beating people up to get stories!

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Re: Orlowski gets it wrong

Your voicemail works differently than mine.

Once I listen to a message, it has a finite lifespan, unless I mark it to be saved. If I don't mark it to be saved, when my mailbox fills up, it stops accepting new messages until 1) messages are deleted manually or 2) messages are deleted due to age.

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Re: Jim Morrow Gets it wrong

Secondly El Reg commentards have a duty to avoid [using the] emotive word hacking [to describe] the trivial task of accessing voicemail.

Nicely put, sir. At last, a bit of sense. I'd go a little further and say that hacking should not have the negative connotations that The Media[TM] attach to it within this community but your admonition will do nicely.

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Re: Orlowski gets it wrong

So the fact that the News Corp hacks broke into the voicemail of a murdered child but didn't delete anything wasn't a cause for revulsion? The story was true except for one detail.

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Re: Orlowski gets it wrong

Are you saying you believe that everyone is quite happy that NoTW accessed the voicemails, and if only the (inadvertant) deletion on the mails hadn't happened nobody would have any problems with NI at all?

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Re: Re: Orlowski gets it wrong

No.

Next question?

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Re: Orlowski gets it wrong

"This caused huge public revulsion" - No; the huge public revulsion was caused by the listening, not the deleting. The deleting was a detail. For the previous known victims, NotW had some kind of public interest justification, or else they were people like royalty who had courted media attention or were otherwise able to look after themselves. None of that applied to the Dowlers. They were innocent. There was no justification for reading their dead daughter's email. The public cared about them in a way they didn't care about celebrities and politicians.

Your article is wrong on this point, and from your 10:31 comment it seems you still don't understand why what the NotW did was a big deal.

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Re: Re: Brandon defies belief

The deletions gave the parents false hopes. This caused the outrage.

If I need somebody to tell me elephants can fly, Brangdon, you'll be the first person I call.

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Re: This caused the outrage.

Patently false - the story broke around the same time as illegal access to the voicemails of 9/11 victims and families of dead soldiers - in both cases there was no question of giving in false hope, and in both cases there was outrage.

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Re: Brandon defies belief

Plenty of people here seem to be outraged about the mere fact of nosing around in a dead girls voicemail.

We - members of the public - are telling you that our outrage wasn't just because voicemails were allegedly deleted. What makes you so sure that we're lying?

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Re: true except for one detail

Except this isn't the case of the Jesuit priest producing the dog when accused of murdering a man and his dog. The case as I recall reading it and the comments at the time is that what News Corp did CAUSED hope for the victim's family because they thought she was updating things in the phone.

What I see here on these pages from my perch across the sea is that Old Blighty is infested with an irrational hatred of Rupert Murdoch and anything with which he is associated, and any excuse to continue to slander or libel him is welcome. Perhaps because too often you Brits seem to stifle legitimate criticism in the name of preventing slander and libel.

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Re: the huge public revulsion was caused

Not by my read of the comments at the time. ALL of the criticizing statements emphasized the deleting. I'm not letting you memory hole this one.

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Re: our outrage wasn't just because voicemails were allegedly deleted

Because too many of us read the comments with our own lying eyes.

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Not sure about this

To pretend this opinion piece is an objective journalistic analysis is a bit rich, here are just two emotive misrepresentations I'd like to highlight.

The Milly Dowler accusation wasn't false, it contained inaccuracies. The News of the World did use the fact that Millie Dowler hadn't changed her pin to listen to her voice mails. That is accepted and illegal. They didn't delete her voice mails which was part of but not the whole claim. Personally I'm still disgusted by that behaviour.

OFCom are not Sir Humphreys (Civil Servants responsible to ministers). They are a QUANGO (QA stands for Quasi Autonomous) which means they are not servants of the Government. They are set up to be independant of ministers to avoid exactly what some people think might have happened, that the decision was rubber stamped by a ministerial team enamoured of Mr Murdoch. You might be right, although I disagree, OFCom had overstressed the plurality point; but to present their designed independance as disobedience is simply incorrect.

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Re: Not sure about this

RE: Sir Humprehys.

I take your point - blame me rather than Andrew for that, I was using it in a general sense; the para has since been tweaked.

C.

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Re: Not sure about this

"They didn't delete her voice mails which was part of but not the whole claim. Personally I'm still disgusted by that behaviour."

In my case, if my voicemail fills up with unlistened to messages, then it won't accept any more. The act of the NotW, by illegally accessing the voicemails caused them to be marked read which led to the messages being deleted, even if that was not the intended outcome, which resulted in the false hopes that she was alive and had accessed them.

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Well, It Convinced Me ..

.. Ofcom's doing an fantastic job! Your man's clearly worth his £400K.

Isn't the entire point of a regulator that is should stop dodgy politicians putting big business' interests ahead of their constinuents' interests? If only the other regulators would get their noses out of big business' butt and start doing their jobs so effectively.

Rock on Ofcom!

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Counter historians

"On 5 July the Milly Dowler story broke, causing universal revulsion. And while it turned out to be false"

The 'story' was not false insofar as the hacking allegations were concerned - the accusation of directly deleting the voice messages was. IIRC the phone provider automatically deleted messages 72 hours after being listened to, and the particular emptying of the message queue, leading to the 'false hope', was likely due to a private investigator for the Dowlers listening to them. What seemed fairly certain was that they were not maliciously deleted by the NotW or it's agent in order to make room for more messages - something that was being alleged.

At the time it was still unclear whether this accounted for all message deletions, the suspicion being that some may have been deleted by the agent for the NotW inadvertently 'starting the timer' - highly likely given that the PI and NotW admissions of listening to some messages.

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Re: Counter historians

@Tim:

A story claiming that elephants can fly does not become true (or 'not false') because the story also happens to (correctly) point out that elephants have trunks.

"What seemed fairly certain was that they were not maliciously deleted by the NotW or it's agent in order to make room for more messages - something that was being alleged."

Yes.

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Re: Counter historians

"A story claiming that elephants can fly does not become true (or 'not false') because the story also happens to (correctly) point out that elephants have trunks"

You refer to "the Milly Dowler story" - without qualifications as to what part of the whole story relating to her. Parts of "the Milly Dowler story" were almost certainly false (the deliberate deletion), many parts were true. That does not make "the Milly Dowler story" false, as you claim, only elements of it.

I did not claim "the Milly Dowler story" (as a entity) was true - you claimed it was false.

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FAIL

Re: Counter historians

"A story claiming that elephants can fly does not become true (or 'not false') because the story also happens to (correctly) point out that elephants have trunks."

In this case a better analogy would be a story about elephants having trunks making the false assertion that elephants can fly. That does not negate the main thrust of the story which is that elephants have trunks.

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Re: Counter historians

Exactly, the guardian headline was "Missing Milly Dowler's voicemail was hacked by News of the World", the deletion is mentioned in a bullet point, and in the sith paragraph.

This *is* a story about elephants having trunks.

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Re: Re: Counter historians

And the Guardian sub headline on that story?

EXCLUSIVE: Paper deleted missing schoolgirl's voicemails, giving family false hope

Followed by:

Milly Dowler's mother tells Clegg deleted messages gave her hope (BBC)

She's picked up her voicemails. She's alive!' Murdered Milly's mother tells Leveson Inquiry of the moment phone hackers gave her false hope (Mail)

etc

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Re: Counter historians

Yes, sub headline, not headline. Detail not whole story.

No one is denying that the guardian said mails where deleted. They are denying that deletions are what the Guardian story was about. Because they aren't.

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Re: Counter historians

Speaking of elephants in the room...

While the NI hackers did not directly delete the voicemails on Milly Dowler's phone, their actions did cause the voicemails to be deleted thereby giving Milly Dowler parent's false hope she was alive.

It's a bit like a dunk in a car knocking somebody down and killing them, then saying "Oh! I didn't mean to kill anyone while driving while drunk"

They’re still culpable.

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Re: Counter historians

You're on a hiding to nothing here, Andrew. I think you are spot on with regard to the Milly Dowler voicemails, but sadly, when it comes to the Murdoc's, some people will never let reality get in the way of narrow minded dogma.

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Market dominance

"News Corp’s products do not dominate any significant market"

Oh yes they do! Mainstream sport on Sky for one, and their cross-media ownership gives them unrivaled opportunities to promote their products.

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Re: Market dominance

"and their cross-media ownership gives them unrivaled opportunities to promote their products."

Unlike the BBC, then?

The big difference being, that if you don't pay your Sky bill, you could get cut off. if you don't pay the license fee, you could get locked up.

Only one organisation dominates the UK media market - the BBC.

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Interesting article...

However, RE: "You also wonder why, if Ofcom did not think BSkyB wasn't fit and proper to run a media company, it didn't say so from the start?"

I don't think Ofcom's query was (or is) whether BskyB is fit and proper to run a media company, more whether the Murdochs were fit and proper to own 100% of a media company. Remember, at the moment, they own 39% of Sky. Ofcom know this, and they know that in theory, the other shareholders can act to prevent the Murdochs taking too much control.

This is, however, an interesting article. I find it interesting you pointed out that the perception was (and is) that the Murdochs own Sky, while not actually owning it.

I think this is related to something the Murdochs do quite well. They are good at appearing to have more than they do. Think about it. Their news papers sell to probably (at most) 10% of the country. Sky despite having a lot of subscribers to it's satellite platform, actually doesn't get a lot of viewers for any of it's channels. I'd even go so far as to say that the average episode of Coronation Street is watched by probably as many (if not more) people as those that read or watch Murdoch media outlets, yet no one questions how much power the staff behind Coronation Street has over the general population

But, the Murdochs appear to have power. Why? I suspect it's a combination of things.

1) They seem to be extraordinarily good at becoming friends with the people who are in the right places (even if those people are not in power, they are often advisors to someone who is).

2) They are perceived by people to have a lot of power. This has, in the past, made Politicians scared of offending them. This is what gives them that power.

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Re: Interesting article...

Very perceptive. The market share doesn't support the myth.

This is not a popular view, because people want their Keyser Sose:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/07/21/rupert_murdoch_more_myth_than_mogul/

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@Stuart Castle: Sources of Murdoch's power

In addition to the sources you stated, I don't remember Murdoch admitting to interfering with any newspaper's editorial policy until yesterday: http://www.itv.com/news/2012-04-25/murdochs-testimony-to-the-leveson-inquiry/ when he "Admitted editorial interference in The Sun, but not other newspapers".

He still denies interfering with editorial policy at The Times. Well he would wouldn't he, but he still hires and fires the editors. And I guess more voters still read the Sun anyway.

The fact remains that old school politicians have never liked starting arguments with those who buy ink by the barrelload. It wouldn't help them win votes. Maybe its the fact that fewer papers are sold each year that has resulted in Murdoch giving evidence for his organisation's criminality now, which is more than Maxwell ever did for stealing his employees pensions.

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Re: Interesting article...

The reason for their power, amongst other things, is the threat of having your private life sieved by a team of hacks and investigators. Any public figure with anything resembling a past (96%) would run a mile from being dragged through the scandal sheets.

This threat has since been confirmed in the ongoing enquiry.

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Re: Keyser Sose

Is that really the best analogy?

I seem to remember that Kevin Spacey's character turned out to be the evil psychotic gangster and he used the myth of Keyser Sose to hide his actual crimes.

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