With News Corp still trying to seal the deal that will secure ownership of the remaining 60% of BSkyB that it doesn’t own already, effectively giving them monopoly control of satellite broadcasting in the UK, there was one important hurdle they needed to jump – Ofcom.
Ofcom is the communications regulator.
We regulate the TV and radio sectors, fixed line telecoms and mobiles, plus the airwaves over which wireless devices operate.
We make sure that people in the UK get the best from their communications services and are protected from scams and sharp practices, while ensuring that competition can thrive.
So begins the “what is Ofcom?” blurb on its own website. A little further down the same page is a listing of the main legal duties that the watchdog authority is required to ensure and these include:
“television and radio services are provided by a range of different organisations”
Another cursory glance at Ofcom’s own website reveals that its Chairman, Colette Bowe, is a board member of Morgan Stanley International, a position that she took up in 2010, around the time when the BSkyB takeover was announced.
Why is this relevant? Because Morgan Stanley have been directly involved as one of two companies providing BSkyB with advice about the proposed takeover. Further information on their involvement can be found here – see top of page 3.
If one looks a little further, Bowe is also connected to Morgan Stanley & Co. International plc (which appears to be the same company listed as Morgan Stanley International on Ofcom’s webpage) which has a direct role in advising BSkyB in its negotiations with News Corp. As the official document states on www.corporate.sky.com, in relation to a 15th June 2010 statement about the News Corp proposal: “Merill Lynch and an affiliate of Morgan Stanley, Morgan Stanley & Co. International plc, are acting as joint corporate brokers and Merrill Lynch is also providing certain financial advice to BSkyB.”
On November 4th 2010, Ofcom released a “Guidance note for public interest test” announcing the start of Ofcom’s investigation. Three weeks later, on November 25th 2010, Ofcom Chairman, Colette Bowe, joined the board of Morgan Stanley & Co. International plc. By the next day, Bowe was both in charge of Ofcom’s investigation into the BSkyB takeover whilst also now a Board Member on a company offering advice to BSkyB. No surprise then that Ofcom gave the merger the go-ahead.
With the competition commission also having been bypassed, following Jeremy Hunt’s decision which allowed News Corp to speed up the process, the only remaining hurdle now is whether Ofcom decides to reverse its original decision.
Speaking to BBC News today, Jeremy Hunt says he has decided to ask Ofcom if they would review their initial recommendations, in the light of the “horrific revelations” of last week. But with the Chairman of Ofcom, Colette Bowe, so clearly compromised by her dual roles, the question of Ofcom’s stated independence also needs to be considered.
To see what Jeremy Hunt had to say, watch the video link here.
To read more on the same story may I recommend a very insightful article posted on former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray’s own website.