Rupert Murdoch owns one of the largest media organisations in the world, called News International. This is an organisation which owns products in all mediums. Press baron, Murdoch started his ownership of print in Australia when he inherited his first newspaper from his father, the Adelaide News, he made what was a fairly unsuccessful newspaper into a thriving business. After taking over the Mirror in Sydney, in the 1970’s Murdoch came to the UK and purchased two tabloids, The Sun and the News of the World.
Following this was 20th Century Fox, and Fox TV in the 1980’s this was his first ownership in a medium other than print. This was of course a sign of things to come as shortly afterward he launched satellite TV. Now one of the most successful people in media ownership Murdoch describes himself as a libertarian “As much individual responsibility as possible, as little government as possible, as few rules as possible. ” I am going to be looking at the ways in which Rupert Murdoch has changed the television industry in the UK.
After mainly specialising in the medium of print Murdoch decided that TV was more of a growing medium here in the UK so in 1989 his media organisation, New International launched a four channel service SKY the UK’s first 24 hour news channel using The Astra satellite. Fourteen months later another satellite new provider, British Satellite Broadcasting was launched. Murdoch then had direct competition for a short period of time. For six months the two battled for subscribers, but after losing a great deal of money, BSB and Murdoch’s SKY merged to become BSYKB.
Murdoch’s News International owns 50% of BSKYB. BSKYB/ Sky news was the first of its kind and revolutionised the television industry, never before had you been able to access current news stories from your television set 24 hours a day. However the British population seemed uninterested in the early 1990’s and it wasn’t until the mid to late 1990’s that BSKYB started to make a profit. But in 1998 approximately 6. 2million homes had access to Sky News either through satellite or cable.
Up until the launch of BSKYB the television industry had been mainly dominated by the BBC. Rupert Murdoch changed that and the television industry became and still is dominated by commercial television in particular satellite and cable. We then had access to a huge number of channels for both news and entertainment. This meant that people felt they had a greater choice in what they watched For example sport, people who particularly enjoyed baseball were now able to access a baseball match, and the viewer would feel as though they were taking part in a shared experience.
This is something the viewer would not be able to do with terrestrial television. In 1996 SKY decided to introduce the first pay per view and charged their customers to watch the Bruno vs Tyson fight. People paid for this because they felt that what they were receiving was an exclusive sports showing. Rupert Murdoch knew that sport was very important, so he made sure that he got it right and included exclusive showings such as my earlier boxing example. In today’s society it is often the case that people (men in particular) subscribe to SKY because of the sport.
They feel that if they don’t subscribe they are deprived of these exclusive showings. It is not just the introduction of Sky in 1982 that has changed the television industry. Since the launch, SKY has been making technological changes that have modified the way we view television. A good example of this was the launch of Sky digital in 1998, as this gave audiences improved quality and more channels. Following this was their first interactive football match this again demonstrates my previous point that watching sport became even more of a shared experience.
Two years later, following the success of digital Sky turned off its analogue service. This meant that existing customers also had to switch over to the digital service if they wished to continue viewing satellite television. By this time BSKYB had over 5million UK subscribers. The fact that Murdoch owns so many products causes concern, as many would agree that because all of these channels are owned by Rupert Murdoch society are experiencing a lack of diversity and debate. But this also stretches further than the television industry.
Because Murdoch owns such a huge amount of mediums it is thought that the films we watch, the newspapers and magazines we read will all portray the same believes and views again creating a lack of diversity. As Murdoch quite rightly said; “Monopoly is a terrible thing, until you have it. ” For better or for worse Murdoch’s monopoly is changing the television industry. An example of this is the Granada and Carlton merger, by merging they stood more chance of succeeding in what is a very competitive market.
It could be said that Rupert Murdoch is changing the structure of the television industry in a way that there are now more multinational organisations. Anti capitalists would say that this is unfair and that all wealth should be shared equally. Satellite and Cable television is now very popular with millions of subscribers in the UK. Society has now come round to the way of thinking that if you do not have a subscription you are censored. Meaning that there is so much broadcasted on Satellite that one would not want to miss.
But is this always the case? Is 24 hour news really necessary? If you were to watch the news 24 hours a day it is unlikely you would learn much more than if you just watched the 6:00 news on a terrestrial channel. It is usually the case that there are very few news stories to be reported on throughout the day and they are mainly just repeating key events. America saw satellite television long before the launch of Murdoch’s Sky in the UK and we can see from the USA the more choice increases the more the quality drops.
However technology has advanced in a way that people want to be able to access news and information as and when they feel necessary; this has come about not only with satellite and cable television but from the internet. This introduces time and how society can now work, shop, be entertained and keep up with the news as they please. With technology such as Murdoch’s introduction of BSKYB society is no longer bound by time. It is thought that technology allows us to do what we want to do when we want to do it and it therefore makes our lives easier.
For example the invention of the vacuum cleaner was thought to make life easier but it did in fact do the opposite because we went from cleaning the floor very little to vacuuming at least once a week. This bizarre example demonstrates how it is sometimes unclear what technology does for us as individuals, we create technological products because there is a need for it, but is there always a need for such products when my previous point states that there is little more news on Sky’s 24 hour channel than on terrestrial TV.
Are we placing too much faith in technology and are we therefore dominated by technology? It is said that Rupert Murdoch along with other media organisations is ‘dumbing down’ the media industry and making things simpler for the audience. Brian McNair describes this process as; “commodification, marketisation, tabloidisation and Americanisation. These trends are argued to be replaying the normative content of news-objective information about issues of public importance- with a cultural form which is more like entertainment; which indeed is infortainment.
McNair believes that the news should be important issues that are in the public’s interests. It is argued that there is too much of this ‘infortainment’ and that this has a bad effect on the integrity of the public sphere. It is thought that it deprives society of the information they need to make decisions about politics and foreign affairs. Because the media is so simplified it is no longer challenging the audience. The reason for this dumbing down is because Rupert Murdoch wants BSKYB to be popular and therefore successful.
By over complicating he is cutting out a large amount of society that could be potential customers. People won’t watch something they feel is difficult to understand, our concentration span doesn’t last very long any way and if a confused audience is never a good thing. It is more than often than not that the news has a high celebrity and lifestyle element and Rupert Murdoch is a prime example of this not only with his dumbing down of satellite television but also with his tabloid newspaper- The Sun and News of the World.
Competition arises between Murdoch and the terrestrial, commercial channels when we witness such things as the launch of ITV digital in tfytfh. At first this was to be a major threat to BSKYB, if ITV were producing a digital service that bettered that of SKY’s there was a danger that they would lose subscribers. As it happened ITV digital was in no way better than SKY and after only three years of rather unsuccessful broadcasting they collapsed. This worked in Murdoch’s favour as they are said to have gained tens of thousands of subscribers.
It is rumeroured that Rupert Murdoch will buy channel five, some say that this will strengthen what is a rather unsuccessful channel. If this goes ahead it means that Rupert Murdoch is just increasing his power in the media industry but if channel 5 is bought by another multinational company such as AOL Time Warner they will be in direct competition with News international. Since the introduction of BSKYB there have also been changes to the commercial television industry. Advertising Revenue has dropped because of fragmented audiences.