Guest post by Laurie Fitzjohn-Sykes
Our politicians have failed to act, but we now have an opportunity with crowdfunding to collectively acquire The Times and The Sunday Times from Rupert Murdoch. We can each make a small investment and at the same time help defend our democracy. This would be an important and achievable step towards reducing the concentration of media ownership.It’s now three years since the phone hacking scandal erupted, we’ve had a high profile trial, the Leveson Inquiry, a newspaper has been shut down and a new press regulator has been formed. However amongst all this clamour and action the heart of the problem has been ignored; five families control 80% of the national newspapers we read, this is not a free press and it undermines our democracy.
Crowdfunding has been growing rapidly and the valuation of newspapers falling, so that now a crowd bid is possible. We target raising £100m that is around £120 per reader of The Times or £2 per UK adult; this is achievable.
While the newspapers are not publically for sale we argue there are a number of reasons why the Murdochs may sell. Firstly, it is a chance to rejuvenate their public image after the phone hacking scandal. Secondly, financial markets put a zero to negative value on the newspapers in News Corp’s share price, therefore a sale should increase the share price. Thirdly, the Murdochs do not have complete control of News Corp with 14% of the equity and 39% of the voting rights. Lastly if £100m is raised then the public pressure will be considerable.
We also argue The Times and The Sunday Times are an attractive investment despite being currently slightly loss making. For example the operating loss has reduced from £-72m in 2009 to £-6m in 2013. In addition an acquisition would enable a merger of the Sunday and daily editions, which is currently prevented by an agreement put in place when Rupert Murdoch acquired the newspapers in 1981. We outline more reasons in detail on the website.
To conclude, the current concentration of media ownership is undermining our democracy and our politicians have failed to act. With crowdfunding we have a unique opportunity to tackle this by each making a small investment. For more detail and to support the bid go to www.letsownthenews.org.