Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

Chaotic economic policies have caused a split among the coalition, Sunday Mirror’s Vincent Moss revealed yesterday. The revelations followed news from earlier in the week when it was announced Britain is now in a double dip recession.

A source revealed to the Sunday Mirror that ‘Mr Osborne was becoming ­increasingly isolated as he faced a torrent of criticism from both Tory ministers and senior Lib Dems.’

The source added: ‘Things are so bad right now; George could even get the blame for the rain.’ You can read the article in full here.

It was a bad week for the coalition in other areas too. The Leveson Inquiry dominated many of the headlines mid week when Rupert Murdoch gave his evidence to the inquiry and during this time questions arose over whether the  culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, may have broken the ministerial code in his handling of the News Corp bid for BSkyB.

If the story alone isn’t embarrassing enough for David Cameron then added to that embarrassment was the refusal by Lord Justice Leveson who made it clear to the government that the purpose of his inquiry was not to rule if the culture secretary had indeed breached his ministerial code.

 

This came after Cameron had suggested on Wednesday last week that the Leveson inquiry was the best forum in which to determine whether Hunt had handled the bid in a partisan manner.

There were also denials that the deputy prime minister had meddled in the inquiry and that he had asked the inquiry to bring forward the date of Hunts appearance so his case could be ‘fast tracked’. Leveson’s spokesman said that Hunt’s request to bring his evidence session forward had been turned down “in the interests of fairness to all”. You can read the full story here.

Marina Hyde offered insight into the historic week in which Rupert Murdoch spent a day and a half giving evidence to the inquiry. She suggested that Murdoch’s contempt for politicians was borne of the embarrassing ease with which he is able to persuade them to fawn over him. She recalls that he said: ‘”I wish they’d leave me alone,” he lamented of a succession of prime ministers during last year’s select committee testimony.’

Perhaps senior politicians have been guilty of this. But as we are now finding everyone gets held to account. Eventually.

 

 

A Loss for Media Freedom at Home plus a Victory in the European Parliament

Labour Party

As Rupert Murdoch seems almost certain to gain control of the 61 percent of BSkyB he doesn’t already own, the vitally important though very thorny issue of media control and media plurality is very much on the UK agenda.

To the shame of the Tory-led government’s Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and the detriment of the British people, Mr Hunt intends to permit this £8 billion deal impeded only by a 10 year agreement to hive off the loss making Sky News.

However, we are not the only EU member state to feel the cold winds of such control and repression of freedom.  I have in the past blogged about Hungary where the right-wing parliament is seeking more powers over the media.  The European Commission has attempted to rectify the situation, but with little success.

Accordingly the European Parliament passed a resolution today asking the Hungarian authorities to suspend the implementation of the new media laws and for the European Commission to set a deadline for this.

The text of the main points of the resolution is set our below.

This is a major step forward and demonstrates that MEPs will not sit idly by while media freedom is compromised.

  • Calls on the Hungarian authorities to suspend the implementation of the new media laws, as the government’s 2/3 legislative majority does not give it a right to decide alone in matters of media freedom; and instead start the legislation anew in parity-based discussion forums that include opposition and civil society, with a view of improving the laws also on the basis of the remarks and proposals made by the European Parliament, the Commission, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights, recommendations of the Committee of Ministers and Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights;
  • Calls on the Hungarian authorities to restore independence of media governance, with a parity based political composure and participation of journalists associations, while restricting media governance to the audiovisual field, removing its control over press and the internet; restore constitutional safeguards for media pluralism and true judicial overview by appeals to ordinary courts; limit the state interference with freedom of expression concerning balanced coverage to television only; protect investigative journalism by protection of confidential sources, removing news prescriptions and registration as a pre-requisite for operation; respect the country of origin principle enshrined in the Audio-Visual Media Services Directive;
  • Calls on the Hungarian authorities to involve all stakeholders in relation to the revision of the Constitution, which is the basis of a democratic society based on the rule of law, with appropriate checks and balances to ensure the fundamental rights of the minority against the risk of the tyranny of the majority;
  • Calls on the Commission to set a close deadline for the Hungarian authorities to change the law on the points raised by OSCE, the Council of Europe, the Commission and the European Parliament, and shall the deadline not be met, proceed with infringement proceedings;
  • Requests the Commission to submit a proposal for EU legislation on media freedom, pluralism and independent governance before the end of the year, hereby overcoming the inadequacies of the EU’s legislative framework on media, making use of its competences in the fields of the internal market, audiovisual policy, competition, telecommunications, State subsidies, public service obligation and fundamental rights of everyone on EU territory, in order to define at least the minimum essential standards that all Member states must meet and respect in national legislation to ensure, guarantee and promote freedom of information, an adequate level of media pluralism and independent media governance;
  • Calls on the Commission and the Council to ensure that democratic values including media freedom are respected within the EU and remain central to its foreign policy, while continuing to show support to media freedom campaigners inside and out of the EU;

 

Cheaper to Watch Football, but What About Cricket?

Labour Party

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) recently made a ruling on broadcasting rights for sporting events that could have serious effects on minority sports across Europe, including cricket. 

At the moment broadcasting rights for sport in Europe are sold on a ‘territorial’ (country by country) basis.  They are also sold on an ‘exclusive’ basis, which means that only one broadcaster in each country is allowed to broadcast the event.  Understandably the rights are sold at different prices in each territory since, for instance, Greek broadcasters are unlikely to pay as much for English football as British ones.  The system works using ‘decoder cards’ which, once a subscription is paid to your territories service provider, allows you to access their channels through a satellite dish.

What has happened in this instance is that a British publican has used a Greek ‘decoder card’ to access Premier League games for far less than they would have to pay for subscription to a British provider.  The Premier League has brought a case against them as they believe that this infringes their right to sell their product on a country by country basis.  The ECJ has ruled that this ‘territorial exclusivity’ goes against the principles of the European Single Market and that decoder cards can be legally traded across member state boundaries.  So the victory goes to the pub owner.

Now you are unlikely to hear me standing up for the rights of the megalithic Premier League or BSkyB, they are big enough and tough enough to do that for themselves.  I’m also uncomfortable with the notion of such a big organisation with limitless resources suing an independent pub owner.  Having said that, this ruling, in my opinion, does no one any good at all. 

It would mean less money for all sports who sell their broadcasting rights. If there are no ‘exclusive’ rights, then broadcasters would pay far less money.  It would mean a significant loss of cultural diversity, if there are no ‘territorial’ restrictions then you could have a ‘one-size fits all’ European system. Big sports could still sell on a big ‘European’ system (football is popular everywhere). But smaller sports such as ski-jumping, cricket, curling, or cycling, would not be able to make enough money from selling to the whole of Europe.  Smaller broadcasters would not be able to afford the cost of ‘European’ rights. They would not be able to compete, which would mean a monopolistic advantage for the biggest broadcasters in Europe.

So we could see cricket losing a lot its money, similarly handball in France and the Scandinavian countries.  This would be bad for sport and bad cultural diversity.