Wednesday, October 05, 2011


The Sky Is Falling – Result!

Good news for TV viewers, small business and Europe – bad news for Rupert Murdoch and big money. And perhaps the first time I’ve ever cheered a story about football. So congratulations to pub landlady Karen Murphy for standing up for herself against the big business bullies, and to the European Court of Justice for saying that big cartels can’t stop free competition. She bought a legal decoder, paid tax on it, and used it to show football on her pubs – only for greedy monopolists to shriek and fine her. Well, I hope Sky has to repay her £8000. And that someone in the vast corporation (not a Murdoch, obviously) feels slightly ashamed at pretending a small pub in Portsmouth that’s paid a proper subscription is a rival “broadcaster”, as if they were another giant.

I’ve never liked football and would choose a different pub, but I know what it’s like to be a fan, and I know that standing up to bullies is right and that big business monopolies are wrong. And a lot of football fans I know are far from happy at the big money that runs the Premier League and its unholy bargain with Rupert Murdoch (not least when it doesn’t matter how many millions you play a footballer if the spoiled brats decide they’d rather take the money but refuse to play anyway).

If Mr Murdoch and the Premier League want to charge Sky-high prices to let people watch football when it can be watched more cheaply under absolutely legal agreements in other European countries, the point of the EU’s free trade laws is that you can shop around. No wonder all the Murdoch press hate the EU, eh? Competition like this might force some of Sky’s prices down, put a brake on Murdoch power, and perhaps even throw some cold water in the faces of the Premier League fat cats. All good things from where I’m standing. This isn’t about not paying – it’s about not paying through the nose when someone else is selling the same thing more cheaply (like Sky, legally; like Sky, the Greek broadcaster has nothing to do with ‘making the product’ and is just selling on someone else’s work).

Apparently lawyers for the combined forces of monopolist fatcattery are aiming to mount a fresh challenge on “copyright” grounds – as if they invented footballers. Let’s hope the courts continue to uphold competition for consumers over the vested interests of bullying greed.

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I'd hold off on the champagne just yet. Whilst anything that undermines the Murdoch empire is good news, this ruling has implications on the UK TV and film industries (and those of other European countries); indie films are financed by selling the distribution rights to multiple European territories; this ruling effectively means that all distribution deals will have to be Europe-wide with multi-national organisations (like News International - all it needs to do is set up TV stations in every country and negotiate Europe-wide exclusive rights to football etc.)
That's a worrying point - but rather than giving up, I'd say it's time for governments to get much tougher on competition policy and do more to break up empires...
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