Sky CEO Speaks Out Against "Largely Lawless Internet Landscape"

BSkyB CEO Jeremy Darroch Headshot - P 2012
Courtesy of BSkyB

BSkyB CEO Jeremy Darroch Headshot - P 2012

Jeremy Darroch also discusses competition with tech giants and why "we are not going to win a global economic battle by trying to recreate the unique conditions found on the West Coast of America."

Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch has spoken out against the influence of technology giants and the "largely lawless internet landscape."

“Our society and our industry face a tsunami of harms online, from fake news to extremism, from theft of identity to theft of content," he said during a speech in Tallinn, Estonia. "Everyone is struggling to navigate a path through a largely lawless internet landscape."

Darroch argued that "at a time when there are serious questions over the veracity, safety and legality of much of the content to be found on the internet, television remains the gold-standard reference point for responsibility.”

And, he said, "We in the [European Union] now have the chance to set an example to the world and to make the internet a safer, more responsible place."

On competition with technology giants, he said: "Much of the debate about the future of Europe’s audio-visual industry has been colored by a fear that the internet will destroy our business models." He argued that wouldn't be the case.

Still, "that is not to say that the way the digital giants operate and are regulated doesn’t create some enormous challenges," Darroch emphasized before referencing EU accusations that Apple and Amazon have avoided paying corporate taxes totaling billions of dollars. "When paying taxes, employing people and complying with the law are competitive disadvantages, you know that you have a problem. You don’t need me to tell you that the future of our economy and society is at risk if we leave the playing field uneven.”

Darroch also argued that "too much European political debate is spent worrying about the American model rather than understanding what we have that is succeeding" in Europe. He added that "Sky is an example of a European champion, a company that has no direct comparators in the U.S."

"We are not going to win a global economic battle by trying to recreate the unique conditions found on the West Coast of America," he said. "Instead, we should celebrate what makes Europe such a cultural and creative leader and build on our own strengths."

With the internet reshaping the sector and "creating a highly competitive landscape for content distribution," the Sky CEO said: "There can be no doubt that efficiency and scale will be part of the story of our industry for some time to come. But it is only one chapter. Scale alone cannot be sufficient to create winners in an industry based on creativity. It is European firms that are leading the way in combining the richness of local content and powerful storytelling with world-leading technology and innovation."

That’s why European companies like Sky continue to be successful, he concluded. "Our closeness to our customers in each of our markets provides a huge advantage in understanding our viewers’ preferences, their tastes, their cultural reference points and their passions," Darroch said. "Of course, the global content platforms like Amazon and Netflix produce fantastically high-quality programs, but they are aimed at their global customer base. Even when produced outside the U.S., there is a necessary uniformity to the creativity."

In comparison, most EU countries have local TV eco-systems that see commercial networks competing with public broadcasters. "These valuable eco-systems are Europe’s competitive advantage over the U.S.," Darroch argued. "America simply does not have our rich historic tapestry to tap into, and while U.S. drama formats set the benchmark for quality, they cannot compete for diversity and cultural resonance."

Darroch also reiterated Sky's focus on the broader Europe even after Britain leaves the European Union. "Our commitment to Europe remains as strong as it has ever been and will continue long after Brexit," he said.

21st Century Fox owns a 39 percent stake in Sky and has offered to take full ownership. The U.K. regulatory review of the deal is ongoing.