Sky clouds the picture

Sky has been much in the news these last 24 hours, not least for the continuingly spreading tentacles of Hackinggate, for Offsidegate, which has – rightly – now claimed Richard Keys (albeit via a resignation) as well as Andy Gray, and for Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt being minded to refer to the Competition Commission NewsCorp’s bid for the majority of BSkyB that it doesn’t already own on the grounds of the threat to media plurality (although he has given NewsCorp more time to come up with a bit of a defence – if you like, a sort of opportunity to re-examine an assistant referee’s offside decision).

Somewhat squeezed out by all these MBs of bandwidth coverage, but also of considerable importance in its own right, is Sky’s purchase of The Cloud – a network of 22,000 urban Wi-Fi hotspots across Europe. Other operators are also in the market, with the key aim of being able to retain subscribers across a range of platforms rather than loosing them to other operators in different locations, so Sky’s acquisition is absolutely within the prevailing market strategy. The Cloud – both in its own right as well as via its arrangements with market leader BT Openzone – is likely to have a large market share but, with a nod to the impact over time of Sky’s obvious pulling power, this is not a question of market dominance of the Wi-Fi hotspot market.

But, the news was broken by The Sunday Times – which, of course, is also in the NewsCorp stable. So, a newspaper arm of a media company (and one which charges for online access) gets first dibs on the story of an important business acquisition of another company in the same group. Perhaps Jeremy Hunt might like to focus on the media plurality aspects of that when he sits down to ‘negotiate’ NewsCorp’s bid for BSkyB with The Digger over the next few days. That’s right – negotiate. In the context, what a terrible word. Perhaps Hunt should, as advised by Ofcom, have simply blown for offside. One aspect of the ConDem’s attempt to ‘return policy to ministers’ is that we end up with this sort of undignified haggle over terms which leaves the process itself completely lacking in integrity.