Members of the public have raised concerns about the UAE-backed attempt to take over The Telegraph during a radio phone-in.
On Saturday, LBC held a phone-in on the subject of “how comfortable would you be with mainstream British media companies being foreign-owned”, in response to The Telegraph takeover bid from RedBird IMI, a fund backed by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the vice-president of the United Arab Emirates.
One caller from Kensington in London said they would find the Abu Dhabi government’s ownership of The Telegraph “worrying”. “Media is a very important part of our society, it’s not just another business… it’s designed to hold every centre of power to account,” he said.
Josh, a caller from Chiswick, west London, said that foreign governments could “use that media to persuade a country to do certain things and not deal with the consequences because they don’t actually live here”.
Russ in Leyton, east London, said: “For me, it boils down to whether Red Bird’s assurances about editorial freedom can be assured in the long term.
“It’s down to just a judgement call – can these people be trusted over a period of time or not?”
He noted that Andrew Neil, the chairman of The Spectator – which is also subject to the takeover bid – had concluded that “he doesn’t trust them”. And he said he felt “consternation at the idea of any government owning a significant slice of our media landscape”.
‘Easier to accept democratic foreigners’
Aaron, in Liverpool, said: “I wouldn’t like a foreign government to own a part of the British media press.”
Duncan, in Romford, Essex, said: “I don’t want any foreign governments owning a British newspaper because even though they might be friendly governments at the moment, supposedly sharing our democratic values, there’s absolutely nothing to prevent them changing in the future.
“I find it easier to accept in the case of foreign individuals if they are living in a democratic environment.”
On Friday, The Telegraph revealed that two thirds of people believe that foreign governments should be banned from owning British newspapers.
A survey of more than 2,000 people by the research agency Public First found that 69 per cent think that overseas governments should be prevented by law from owning media outlets such as newspapers.
Last week, Lucy Frazer, the Culture Secretary, ordered a further investigation into the RedBird takeover.