So we finally learnt today that Jeremy Hunt thought that “our media sector will suffer for years” if Rupert Murdoch’s bid to takeover the whole of BSkyB was blocked by the government. Oh really? This being the same BSkyB that is already the UK’s leading supplier of both residential and business pay-TV services. The same company that led some analysts (Enders, 2011) to calculate that the company accounted for approximately two-thirds of UK residential subscribers to subscription pay-TV and about, wait for this, four-fifths of the sector’s market revenues last year. Let’s not forget, this is the very same BSkyB that dwarfs any other supplier in the market place, including the BBC. BSkyB enjoys revenues of £5.9bn. By comparison the BBC receives £2.4bn from the licence fee.
This is precisely what I don’t get about the free market ideology espoused by Mr Hunt. It creates nothing like a market that is free. On the contrary, as the Enders calculations indicate, it creates a monopoly that stifles competition. Markets don’t need to be free, rather they need to be regulated in order to allow competition to foster. As the economist Ha-Joon Chan has written: “when free market economists say that a certain regulation should not be introduced because it would restrict ‘freedom’ of a certain market [as in the BSkyB case], they are merely expressing an opinion … their ideological cloak is to pretend that their politics is not really political, but rather is an objective economic truth.” If Mr Hunt’s view that the BSkyB bid wouldn’t damage the media sector isn’t a political decision, I don’t know what is.