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10 September 1998 Edition

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Skychester United - who really cares?

What is it about Manchester United? All it takes is the slightest doubt that the grass in Old Trafford hasn't been cut right and panic sets in. Journalists are commissioned to write ``J'acccuse'' articles. TV news bulletins go into overtime. Worried government ministers promise action. Concerned fans gather at the gates of the self styled Theatre of Dreams (what a pathethic self-aggrandising name) and bemoan the lack of consultation.

Get real, girls and boys. It doesn't matter. So Mogul Murdoch is going to buy the Red Devils. So he wants to dominate English Premier League soccer. So what?

Yes, Murdoch will probably change the rules of the game. Goalmouths will get wider. Matches will be divided into quarters to suit advertisers. Fans will only be allowed to sign up to Sky Sports after selling their internal organs and small children to Murdoch's News Corporation. Big deal.

Rupert Murdoch has been allowed to do much more dangerous and threatening acts than buy an overvalued football club. He has been allowed to dominate British media markets and use this as a base to build a global media empire.

Murdoch has systematically used his company's control of the British print media to undermine their already suspect democratic structures. There was no public outcry over the years as Murdoch used his newspapers to support the Tories, and push his right-wing free market agenda? Last year much was made of Murdoch changing his political allegiances to Tony Blair and New Labour. Was there any outcry over this interference in the electoral process? No.

Murdoch's Sky TV was allowed to broadcast into homes across Europe without proper licences. Was there any outcry? No. When Sky took over British Satellite Broadcasting who had a licence to broadcast saltellite TV signals within a month of their first broadcasts. Was there any mass disapproval? No.

Last year the British Government, not wanting Sky to have a complete monopoly on digital television, barred them from participating in tenders for a terrestrial licence. The tender winners, British Digital Broadcasting, will still depend on Sky for much of their programming. Sky will earn 75% of the revenues from the new service. Has there been any public consultation on this obvious anomaly? No.

The deregulation of televsion media markets from which Sky TV and Murdoch are benefiting is derived from policies which Murdoch championed for years. Funny how there is no discussion of how it is his ideological vision that is winning out in the 1990s.

Across the world national broadcasting policies are being made a mockery of by Murdoch and his web of affiliate companies. Yet again there is no outcry that democratically elected governments cannot formulate their own broadcasting policies without transnational companies like Murdoch's thwarting them.

Yet here we are with Manchester United supporters and soccer fans outraged at Murdoch's purchase of the club. The fact that the £625 million bid for United is just another small step in a much longer process of exploitation and domination has been overlooked.

Now the message is, we must stop Sky and Murdoch from purchasing United. Manchester United is expendable. The real question is whether democracy and national sovereignty are expendable too?

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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