How big is Murdoch's "stranglehold" on UK news media?
Posted on Monday, July 18th, 2011 at 11:08 am. #
On the BBC’s website, a story yesterday: “Miliband and Clegg seek media ownership limits” – Ed Milliband told the Observer Mr Murdoch’s large market share led to ‘abuses of power’. … “I think that we’ve got to look at the situation whereby one person can own more than 20% of the newspaper market, the Sky platform and Sky News. … If you want to minimise the abuses of power then that kind of concentration of power is frankly quite dangerous.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show there was a need to “look again in the round at the plurality rules to make sure there is proper plurality in the British press” … “A healthy press is a diverse one, where you’ve got lots of different organisations competing, and that’s exactly what we need.”
So, how big is Murdoch’s market share, in terms of controlling the agenda for national news? Let’s look at the figures including the News of the World, and see how big his empire really is:
Murdoch weekday newspapers are read by 18% of the population each week.
Murdoch’s Sunday newspapers were read by 20.6% of the population each week.
NRS, Apr 10 – Mar 11
Sky News produces news bulletins for almost all commercial radio stations in the UK. Commercial radio reaches 66% of the population each week.
RAJAR Q1 2011
News Corporation don’t publish their traffic figures. However, both The Times and the News of the World operated behind a paywall, so their figures are likely to be very low in comparison to other organisations. The Guardian posts ABCe figures of 51.8m visitors per month; The Times claims 100,000 paid-for digital subscriptions. It’s likely that the share for Murdoch’s paywall websites is negligible. The Sun, however, is a significantly read website online. In 2007, it had market-leading page impression figures, and attracted 10.5m users. Hitwise reports that in June 2011 the newspaper accounted for around 0.14% of all internet traffic. Sky News online claims 1.7m unique users in March 2011.
ABCe June 2011 | Marketing Week July 2011 | BSkyB | Sun ABCe, 2007 | Hitwise Sun June 2011
How much of our news does Murdoch control, then? It’s difficult to put a figure on the above; but Sky News and online are small, and his newspapers have a roughly 20% share of all the population. Only Sky News’s deal with commercial radio boosts Murdoch’s news ‘reach’ to around 60%, and there is likely to be considerable overlap between commercial radio listeners and newspaper readers. (Commercial radio’s output is also not mainly news).
Who is bigger than Murdoch?
There’s only one contender as a bigger provider of news than Rupert Murdoch… the BBC.
The BBC do not operate printed newspapers.
The BBC News Channel is watched, weekly, by 15% of the population.
Additionally, BBC News content is carried on BBC ONE, BBC TWO, BBC THREE and BBC FOUR. Just BBC ONE itself attracts 83% of the population each week.
BARB Jun 27 – Jul 03 2011
The BBC owns 50 radio stations, and BBC News content is on almost all of them (only BBC Radio 4 Extra carries no news).
BBC radio is listened-to by 68% of the population each week.
RAJAR Q1 2011
The BBC’s website attracts 19.5m adults each week – 38% of the population. BBC News makes up a high percentage of BBC website traffic.
BBC Annual Report 2010/2011
The BBC Annual Report says it best: “across all platforms 81% of [UK] adults consumed BBC News every week”
BBC Annual Report 2010/2011
So – Murdoch media reaches around 65% of the population, and BBC News reaches 81%.
However you examine these figures, it’s clear that the influence of the BBC is considerably larger than anything Murdoch is putting out, even after a BSkyB buyout.
Of course, people could – and do – consume both Murdoch media and BBC News. I’d certainly not seek to claim that the BBC’s high standards of journalism are directly comparable with Murdoch media; and I’d not claim that BBC News is biased (though others have made that claim). I’m proud of the BBC, and proud of the job it does.
However, unlike the differing editorial priorities of The Sun, The Times and Sky News, BBC News operates as one unit, with the same news priorities, by and large, on every output. In a meeting in 2009, I remember then Deputy Director General Mark Byford explaining to senior management what BBC News’s priority stories would be for the year. One news agenda, consumed by 81% of the population – is this a cause for concern?
Politicians are concerned about Murdoch’s influence. Yet, if you ignore Sky, he only reaches 20% of the population with four (currently three) different newspapers, each with differing news agendas. Politicians might, therefore, reasonably wonder whether the BBC’s influence is also worthy of closer examination: and whether it’s entirely healthy for 81% of this country to be getting news from one source with one set of news priorities.
(Comments here welcome, before this article transitions to Media UK).
Oh, good lord, I appear to be agreeing, in a small part, with the Daily Mail
Jem Stone lets me know that Tim Montgomerie said something similar in Conservative Home, with completely different figures taken from OFCOM.
(Both of the above criticise the BBC. I’m going out of my way not to do so.)