Should media owners be able to make political donations?

Of course they shouldn’t. Like, durrrr. There’s rules against this sort of thing aren’t there?

Well, not in the US where Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation has given $1m to an interest group that is leading the attack on Democratic candidates ahead of November’s mid-term elections.

The payment, to the United States Chamber of Commerce, is the second major donation to the Republican cause in three months, following an initial $1m donation to the Republican Governors Association in June. Not least because they ignored a request from Democrats to issue a dislaimer pointing out to viewers the a potential conflict of interest in their reporting of the November elections.

As the BBC’s North America editor Mark Mardell pointed out recently, owners of the other major networks in the US like CBS, ABC and NBC have also given money to the main parties but have been more modest, making donations ‘in the realm of thousands of dollars, not millions.’

So could this level of interference by media owners in the political process happen here in the UK?

Well, it already does to an extent, for example with each national paper screaming support for its chosen party during the 2010 General Election campaign and attempting to influence the vote with stories about anything from Nick Clegg’s Nazi slur to Sarah Brown’s dodgy toe. At some points they even mentioned policy.

But as for contributing financially, while any UK-registered company can become a permissible donor, media owners tend to steer well clear following the sleaze allegations surrounding Richard Desmond’s £100,000 gift to Labour in 2002.

Much better to save the cash and sell copies on the back of stories attacking the party you oppose than attract howls of derision from your competitors for giving handouts to the party you support.

What do you think, should media companies be able to make political donations? What would be the reaction if Rupert Murdoch made a significant donation to a major party in the UK?

  • Simon Beveridge

    The question really is whether or not the wealthy and influential should be allowed to run the country for themselves openly, rather than covertly.
    In Australia we are subjected to a media that tells us what to believe, who to vote for and what sport we should follow.
    All is based on what sells newspapers and television ratings, not on truth.
    The media will try and deny the facts but sadly are more interested in “ratings” and profit heralded as return to “Mum and Dad” shareholders while their boards and CEO’s collect massive bonuses.
    As soon as Rupert or one of his peers sees a value in making a public donation to one or more of your parties he will. Until he does, be rest assured, his political preference will be covert but evident in his choice of editor and staff.

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