James Murdoch chides U.K. broadcasters

News Corp. exec delivers Edinburgh TV fest lecture

EDINBURGH -- In a stinging attack on the U.K. media sector and regulators, News Corp. Asia and Europe CEO James Murdoch accused U.K. broadcasting policymakers of having "a creationist approach" to the evolution of a digital-media landscape and warned that "unaccountable institutions like the BBC Trust, Channel 4 and Ofcom" are taking the industry "down the wrong path."

Delivering the 2009 annual MacTaggart lecture Friday at McEwan Hall here, Murdoch called for a free-market policy framework "recognizing the centrality of commercial incentives," in order to stimulate creativity and innovation, but he warned that politicians and regulators had shown "little inclination" to create such markets.

Murdoch likened the U.K. to "the Addams Family of world media" and said Britain is lagging behind such markets as France, Italy and India,

"When I say this, I feel like a crazy relative who everyone is a little embarrassed by and for sure is not to be taken too seriously," he told the packed audience of executives, producers and policymakers.

Perhaps predictably, the former chief executive of U.K. satcaster BSkyB singled out U.K. and European regulators for particular ire, citing the European Commission's decision to investigate the monopoly supply of Premier League Soccer and U.K. media regulator Ofcom's 450 industry consultations as evidence that regulators are stifling dynamism.

"The right path is all about trusting and empowering consumers," Murdoch said. "It is about embracing private enterprise and profit as a driver of investment, innovation and independence and the dramatic reduction of the activities of the state in our sector."

The comments from Murdoch, viewed by many as heir apparent to his father Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. empire, were expected to stoke plenty of debate and comment.

The Mediaguardian Edinburgh International Television Festival wrapped Sunday.