08/30/2010 10:11 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Murdoch and the BBC: They Both Lose

The MacTaggart lecture is one of the high points of the British media calendar. The climax of the Edinburgh International Television Festival, held each year as an adjunct to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and organized and sponsored by the Guardian, the MacTaggart is a purposeful dispensing of ritual and propriety. The gloves come off. Every year, it seems, the speech gets more and more pointed.

The MacTaggart attracts the leading lights of British media, which effectively means either representatives of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which controls SKY, the nation's biggest satellite broadcaster, or of the BBC, the nation's biggest terrestrial network. Indeed, more and more, the MacTaggart is a formal attack on one by the other.

Last year, James Murdoch, Rupert's son who runs his father's interests in Europe and Asia, said, in his best sneering and scornful manner, that the government-supported BBC was not only arrogant and wasteful ("chilling"), but it stifled private media enterprise.

This year, Mark Thompson, the director general of the BBC, said SKY was on its way to being a gargantuan monopoly controlling and inhibiting the rest of British broadcast media. What's more, it was on its way to dominating British media with exactly the crap programming that is the Murdoch signature and that the commercially-exempt BBC was meant to be an alternative to.

Continue reading on