Paul Anderson thinks that Gordon Brown has shown some bottle in refusing to offer a referendum on the EU treaty.
I don’t know whether this is the case or not, but Paul’s understanding of it as a simple conflict with Rupert Murdoch is an interesting one.
But I’ve never seen much written anywhere about why Murdoch is so anti-EU. Is this some personal political hobby-horse that he’d developed over the years? A hang-up that he pursues in his spare time, and one that he’s prepared to place his newspapers in conflict with the government over?
Or does he have a business reason for doing so? Is the problem Murdoch? Or his businesses?
I think that the latter is a more persuasive explanation. The EU – and more specifically, their TV Without Frontiers (TVWF) directives - have made life very difficult for Sky TV to compete with their Public Service Broadcasting rivals. These regulations are designed to ensure that broadcasters actually make programmes for the audiences they serve rather than importing them from very robust marketplaces (in this case, the US).
I did a post a while ago outlining what TVWF was about, and it’s here.
But if Gordon Brown was brave in standing up to them over the EU constitution, everyone should be thankful to him for doing so. Because if he didn’t, you could wave goodbye to…
- TV made specifically for UK audiences
- Thriving cultural industries throughout the UK, benefiting from an healthy investment climate
- Thousands of jobs in creative sectors
- The values of public service broadcasting
- TV programmes that aren’t constantly interrupted by adverts
- Radio 3. Radio 4. Radio Six. Radio Seven. Programmes aimed at ethnic minorities and other interest groups.
- Progressive payment for entertainment (goodbye licence fee, hello TV stations for kids that are all adverts)
- Impartial broadcast news (goodbye Fiona Bruce, hello Fox News)
I remember some analogy - a while ago - about how the fine art of taxation is like having the ability to pluck goose-feathers without much hissing. I'd say that the fine art of government is about giving Sky lobbyists as little as possible without having them turn on you.
And whenever you hear orchestrated calls for a referendum, you can be sure that there is a demagogue somewhere at the heart of it. Tony Blair always capitulated to it. I hope Brown is made of sterner stuff.
So I won't be joining Nick Cohen (in the comments here) in saying 'Bring Back Blair!'