Saturday, August 04, 2012

Jeremy Hunt suddenly worries about media plurality

Here's a lovely picture of the wonderfully impartial Jeremy Hunt having fun with Rupert Murdoch at the Olympics:

[It's from eyespymp on Twitter; don't worry, Rupert won't be upset, he loves photos shot from a distance exposing shady dalliances. His papers are full of them.)

Besides being enormous fun, what is the relevance of this photo? Well, hanging out with the boss of a company which the Met Police is considering bringing action against that company's board isn't the only thing that Hunt spent the end of the week doing.

He's also referred the Global Radio takeover of GMG Radio for an investigation.

On one level, this is as it should be - Global is taking on a few more stations and could be seen as reducing choice still further. Although, really, since Global and GCap merged, there's not been a great deal of plurality in commercial radio in the UK.

I might be being unfair to Hunt, but he was shadow culture secretary at the time Global and GCap merged, and I can't find any evidence he was exercised about that much more significant reduction of plurality in the radio world when that happened.

Indeed, Richard Eyre was the chairman of GCap who steered the merger with Global, and for his efforts Jeremy Hunt rewarded him with a position on the review into the plausibility of hyperlocal television in the UK.

So taking two large radio groups and turning them into one makes you an expert in local media plurality in Hunt's eyes, but folding a smaller radio group into a bigger one is a threat to that plurality. Somehow.

It seems even odder that Hunt - a man who we know to have been cheerleading for the UK's largest newspaper group to be given sole control over the UK's largest pay-TV operation - is suddenly worried that the changing hands of a small radio company needs to have a full investigation.

But then... the TV deal featured his chums The Murdochs. Could the detail that it's the Guardian Media Group selling the radio stations in this case be the cause of the sudden interest?

If Jeremy Hunt really believes that radio ownership is an issue, then why not prove that by holding an investigation into the industry as a whole? It's well needed, as anyone who has struggled to find out what's happening in their town using just a commercial radio station will testify.

Otherwise, this looks like just another politically-motivated piece of poor judgement from a man who makes something of a habit of such moves.