Your report (Email trail shows how Hunt oiled wheels of BSkyB bid for Murdoch, 25 April) may have inadvertently misrepresented the nature and timing of articles I wrote for openDemocracy about the News Corp attempt to acquire all of BSkyB.
Apparently, someone at DCMS (not Jeremy Hunt, as implied in the email from lobbyist Frédéric Michel dated 10 January 2011, but probably his special adviser, Adam Smith) wondered whether to ask me to write some “op-ed” in support of the bid, and as a critique of the Ofcom report on the transaction. As I had never even heard of Mr Smith until this week, and have had no contact with Mr Michel since he briefly introduced himself at a drinks party in autumn 2010, my name appears to have been taken in vain.
Unfortunately, by immediately noting that I did indeed write some articles about the bid for openDemocracy – some weeks before, and some months after this email – your report left the impression that I may have written in response to a direct request. Suffice it to say that during the entire 12 months of the BSkyB saga, I had no contact from anyone at the DCMS, News Corp, News International or BSkyB about the transaction.
I did indeed – as did others, also without prompting – write a critique of the Ofcom report: not difficult, given its shocking inadequacy and the fact that its many errors and questionable judgments all served to enlarge the apparent share of news consumption that a combined News Corp and Sky News would represent, while minimising the BBC’s share.
However, when this analysis was published on the openDemocracy website, in March 2011, it was as a link from an article sharply critical of the deal that had been agreed between News Corp and Ofcom. When the bid was withdrawn in July 2011, I wrote another article for openDemocracy, welcoming its abandonment, because of the danger posed to Sky News by the conditions Ofcom had required before approving the transaction.
And the articles published by openDemocracy in late 2010, far from “supporting the bid”, explicitly stated that I did not care what happened to the bid, provided Sky News was not damaged – or closed – in the process; and that I welcomed interventions designed to constrain Murdoch’s powerful position, if they were well-grounded in competition law. The 21 December article was actually a report on a public meeting where I spelled out my indifference as to outcome: indeed, the editor of the Guardian was sitting next to me when I did so!
As it happens, my lengthiest article on BSkyB, in April 2010, had been a strong endorsement of Ofcom’s ruling against Sky over wholesale pricing of premium sports channels. The previous year, openDemocracy had published a lecture I had delivered – introduced by the chief executive of Ofcom – criticising Sky and its executives on a number of fronts.
It may have been inadvertence that led you – in the course of implying that I had written articles “supporting the bid” (which were not in support of the bid), perhaps at the behest of News Corp (which had nothing to do with them) – to mention that I was once an executive at Sky, without adding that I spent 44 years in the media industry not being an executive of Sky, 18 of which were on the boards of companies fiercely competitive with Sky, such as ITV and Virgin Media.