Date: August 24 2012
A SENIOR Labour Party leader has called on all MPs to unite to break up the Murdoch family's British media empire, as Rupert Murdoch's daughter, Elisabeth, was due to make a key speech to the broadcasting industry overnight.
Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman said that while it would be proper for politicians ''to listen respectfully'' to Ms Murdoch's speech, ''the age of deference to the Murdochs is over'' and it was time ''to deal with the invincibility of the Murdoch media empire''.
Ms Harman said News Corp owned too much across all media, with 37 per cent of the market, and too great a share of newspapers in particular (the company owns the august Times and the racier tabloid Sun). She vowed in an interview to make an open offer to the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats regarding talks on changing ownership laws in a way that did not advantage any party.
Ms Murdoch was last night due to deliver the annual James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.
Her younger brother James used the same platform three years ago to launch a scathing attack on the BBC, which he accused of undermining the free play of the market. He said the only guarantor of media independence was profit.
Ms Murdoch is seen as the family's rising star after James resigned his role as chairman of satellite broadcaster BSkyB in April, wounded by attacks on his management of News International, News Corp's British newspaper arm, during the phone-hacking scandal.
Ms Murdoch is the chairman of the independent television company Shine, which produces MasterChef and Merlin.
News Corp bought the company for $675 million last year. The controversial deal provoked accusations of nepotism and a lawsuit from one group of News Corp investors, with Rupert Murdoch accused of treating the company ''like a wholly-owned family candy store'', but Shine has thrived.
Elisabeth made $204 million from the deal but her credibility took a blow. She was supposed to join News Corp's board but opted to delay her accession. Her speech is sure to be examined for signs of News Corp's future direction. It will also be scrutinised by shareholders due to attend a key meeting in the US in October, where Rupert Murdoch might face further pressure to reduce his role in the company.
Ms Harman said ''the context had changed entirely'' from when James Murdoch gave the same lecture. ''This is the second time in three years we have heard from the same family,'' she said.
Harriet Harman was once described in The Times as the ''Marmite cabinet minister - you either love her or loathe her''.
Ms Murdoch will be the first woman to deliver the MacTaggart lecture for 17 years. Sources close to her claim that when she signed up for the job around Christmas, she intended to deliver a lecture on ''creative leadership''.
''She had no idea at Christmas how the News Corp scandal would develop,'' said a close colleague. ''It seems uncharacteristically naive.''
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