Last month the Japanese company Nikkei bought the Financial Times for a reported £844m from the Pearson Group. Pearson have also sold their 50 per cent holding in The Economist to existing shareholders for £469m.
Although the FT is obviously operating in an international marketplace, it has always been seen as a quintessentially British institution. The fact that it, like so much else in the British media, is now in foreign ownership is surely a little worrying.
Does any of this actually matter? After all, we don’t seem to mind that almost all of the major football clubs in England have foreign owners, some of whom have rather dubious backgrounds.
Actually, I think it does matter. It gives overseas owners such as Murdoch a massive degree of influence over British politicians, which surely is not good for our democracy. It also diminishes the so called soft power which British media brands, such as the FT and The Economist, can use to promote UK values and interests internationally.
Some people will argue that having our national newspapers, and football clubs for that matter, owned by non-nationals is no big deal. They will say that it is just part of the globalisation process and that there is nothing to stop British businesses buying up foreign institutions.
Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. You can just imagine the furore in the USA if a British company were to buy The Washington Post. Also, I cannot think of any leading football club in mainland Europe that is British owned
For three decades or so now the political consensus in the UK has been that we shouldn’t interfere with the free market. Having our newspapers and other cultural institutions bought up by overseas interests is the price that we pay for that.