Diary

Norman Buchan

‘We do not wish newspapers to fall into too few hands’: Kenneth Clarke, Trade and Industry Minister. ‘There could hardly be a more obvious increase in concentration than acquisition of a fifth national newspaper by a group which already owns four’: Sir Zelman Cowen, Chairman of the Press Council. Both these comments were made about the recent takeover of Today newspaper by Rupert Murdoch. Unbelievably, the first came from a speech in the House of Commons in defence of the takeover. Stripped of the technical and financial arguments that would have accompanied a reference up to the Monopolies Commission, the Government case was that, like the housemaid’s baby, it was only a small takeover: ‘less than 3 per cent of the market’. As a result, the position whereby one major grouping, Murdoch, controls over a third of the popular press was virtually ignored – at any rate, by the Government. Much was made of the 3 per cent. Nothing of the 35 per cent. The truth is that three men – Murdoch, Maxwell and Stevens – now control almost 80 per cent of the popular press in Britain.

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