Labour leader Ed Miliband has declined to expand on a manifesto pledge to tackle media plurality and said that Rupert Murdoch “less powerful than he used to be”.
Quizzed in a Youtube video by comedian Russell Brand, Miliband was asked what he would do to break up Rupert Murdoch’s News UK newspaper publishing business in the UK – and whether he would limit media ownership to 10 or 15 per cent.
The Labour manifesto says the party “will take steps to protect the principle of media plurality, so that no media outlet can get too big”.
Media plurality campaigners would like to see ownership capped at no more than 30 per cent of a particular market, with the exception of the BBC. News UK owns 32 per cent of the UK daily national newspaper market and 34.5 per cent of the Sunday.
But when online readership is included, Lord Rothermere’s Metro and Mail titles have around double the total of News UK’s Sun and Times titles, according to the National Readership Survey.
Brand said: “I’ve had a bit of a scrap with Rupert Murdoch. There’s not love lost between me and him.
“If you are Rupert Murdoch, he’s got this kind of power, this kind of media voice, if you are prime minister of Britain – can’t you just say: 'Right, I’m prime minister now, we are passing some legislation which says monopolies are being broken up'?
“So Rupert Murdoch, it’s been great. But now you can only own 10 per cent or 15 per cent of total media. People want it.”
Miliband declined to give any concrete promises on media plurality, but did not give the impression that a Labour government would seek to break up News UK.
He said: “We said in our manifesto we’d take a look a look at this issue of media ownership and all that.
“I’ve spoken out against Rupert Murdoch on phone-hacking and what happened to ordinary members of the public who were victims of phone-hacking and intrusion and all those things. The thing I would say about this is these people are less powerful than they used to be.
“Media ownership really matters to me. It’s something I care about. We’ve set out in our manifesto that we are going to definitely look at the issue.”
Brand: “Are you able to make proper pledges or not because it’s too edgy?”
Miliband: “It’s not about edgy. You’ve got to look at how you make it work properly, of course you’ve got to look at that.
“I’m not diminishing Rupert Murdoch, right, he’s much less powerful than he used to be.
“The British people have a lot more sense than some of these newspapers give them credit for.”
The London edition of The Sun backed the Conservatives today in a front page leader comment which name-checked Brand.
It said: “Conspiracy theorists such as Russell Brand, the 39-year-old teenager, believe The Sun backs the Tories because we are all part of some evil elite behind every bad thing ever.
“Here’s the real reason: Because this time they are by far the best bet for the prosperity and happiness of millions of ordinary people who read The Sun.
“It really is that simple.”