Ed Miliband has accused Rupert Murdoch of “blackmail” over a threat to close Sky News if his bid to take over Sky failed, after the competition watchdog warned the bid would give the media mogul too much power.
The ex-Labour leader, who has been a strident critic of Murdoch since the phone hacking scandal, dismissed claims that the broadcaster’s loss-making news arm would be shuttered.
He was speaking after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) provisionally found giving Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox complete control over Sky would give the Murdoch “too much influence over public opinion and the public agenda”.
In November, Sky told the CMA it would review “the continued provision” of Sky News if it “unduly impeded merger and/or other corporate opportunities available in relation to Sky’s broader business”.
Reacting to the CMA’s provisional decision, Miliband told Channel 4 News: “[Sky News] is not going to close. I think that’s a piece of blackmail. That’s one of the weapons in the Murdoch armoury... the regulators saw through it.”
When host Cathy Newman suggested Miliband should give Murdoch credit for funding news at a loss, he said: “Look, I think Sky News is a good brand.
“Sky is a good brand. I think the threat to close it is bunkum, really. Even the directors of Sky are saying it’s an important part of Sky’s brand. I don’t believe it will be closed down in the way that has been threatened.”
Miliband said Murdoch’s actions in America showed he sought direct control of his broadcasters’ output.
“He is in direct charge of Fox News in the United States. Day after day it is spewing out a right-wing agenda,” Miliband said.
“The fear was always, if he gets control over Sky News he could turn it into Fox News.”
He also said broadcast regulations did not cover issues such as “story selection and tone” of coverage, adding: “Who has his or her hands on the levers of a major TV news organisation is so important.”
He added that blocking the bid was the only “viable” course.
The CMA’s final report will be provided to the Culture Secretary Matt Hancock by May 1. Hancock will then make the final decision on the proposed deal.