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Murdoch son: BBC threatens independent journalism

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August 29, 2009 10:59 AM EST | AP

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EDINBURGH, Scotland — The son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch has called the British Broadcasting Corp. a threat to independent journalism.

James Murdoch, the 36-year-old executive in charge of News Corp.'s businesses in Europe and Asia, spoke late Friday at the Edinburgh International Television Festival – 20 years after his father delivered a keynote speech at the same event.

"In this all-media marketplace, the expansion of state-sponsored journalism is a threat to the plurality and independence of news provision, which are so important for our democracy," Murdoch said.

The BBC is subsidized by the British government and funded, in part, by television licenses that consumers must pay if they use a television.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. controls British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC, one of the BBC's main competitors in Britain.

"As Orwell foretold, to let the state enjoy a near-monopoly of information is to guarantee manipulation and distortion," Murdoch said, referring to George Orwell's book, "1984."

He said broadcasting policy had failed to keep pace with changes, relying on regulation and intervention from the state rather than empowering consumers.

Greg Dyke, the BBC's former director general, said Murdoch's argument was "fundamentally flawed."

"Journalism is going through a very difficult time – not only in this country but every country in the world because newspapers, radio and television in the commercial world are all having a very rough time," he said.

Dyke said it was not the fault of the BBC that the recession and loss of advertising revenues had hampered news organizations.

Last month, a journalist told a British parliamentary committee that James Murdoch approved an out-of-court payment to settle a controversial phone hacking case.

News of the World editor Colin Myler said that Murdoch was told that 700,000 pounds ($1.1 million) would be paid to settle a case against the company.

The suit was brought by Gordon Taylor, head of the Professional Footballers' Association, one of the targets of the hacking.

The allegations against the News of the World, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. empire, have been waged as part of a wider scandal concerning journalistic abuses.