The Church of England has become the latest – and unlikeliest – institution to denounce News Corporation’s bid to take full control of British Sky Broadcasting, arguing that the merged company would dominate British media.
The Church has written to the media regulator Ofcom, saying Rupert Murdoch’s News Corpshould not be allowed to buy out the rest of BSkyB because it would threaten media plurality.
In June, News Corp offered 700p a share for the 61 percent of BSkyB it does not already own, valuing the UK satellite broadcaster at more than £12 billion ($19.11 billion).
The Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, said that if the bid succeeded, News Corp would “dominate both the television and newspaper landscape”, with Sky News potentially becoming subject to “subtle editorial influence” from its parent company.
Reverend McCulloch was a member of the Lords Select Committee on communications between 2007 and 2010.
The Church joins an unholy alliance opposing the deal, including media owners from Guardian Media Group to the Daily Mail & General Trust, Channel 4, Mark Thompson, director-general of the BBC, and BT.
“We see a healthy media, which would include a wide plurality of media, as being one of the key building blocks of a healthy society,” a Church spokesman told the FT. “We are the established church: we have a mission to the nation. On broad society issues like this, it’s totally appropriate for us to make our voice heard.”
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, hit back at the Church’s interference. “It’s extraordinary that the Church should think it appropriate to try to influence a perfectly legal and above-board business deal.
“Wasn’t it Jesus who said: ‘Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s’? Well, BSkyB belongs to Caesar and the Church should keep its eyes on the heavens not on the wheeling and dealing in the City.”
News Corp rejected the Church’s arguments. “There has been an increase in plurality in UK media with more people consuming news from more sources than ever before,” it said.
The Church sold its stake in BSkyB in 1995, in protest at its UK launch of Playboy TV.