Entertainment & Arts

Elisabeth Murdoch declares support for BBC licence fee

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Media captionElisabeth Murdoch: "It's because the fee is universal that the BBC has a unique purpose"

Rupert Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth has used a speech to voice her support for the BBC and urge the media to focus on morals as well as profit.

The TV producer sought to distance herself from brother James, an executive at News Corp, which has been embroiled in the phone hacking scandal.

Ms Murdoch delivered the keynote speech at the Edinburgh TV Festival.

She said writing the lecture had been "a welcome distraction from some of the other nightmares much closer to home".

Giving the annual MacTaggart lecture, Elisabeth Murdoch - whose production company makes Masterchef and Merlin for the BBC - also praised the corporation for its creative leadership.

That was in contrast to James, who called the BBC's size and ambition "chilling" when he delivered the lecture in 2009.

Ms Murdoch also criticised the "dearth of integrity" highlighted in the Leveson inquiry into press standards.

She said the exposure of the "sometimes self-serving relationships" between great pillars of society such as police, politics, media and banking served as a reminder that "with great power comes responsibility".

Referring to the Leveson Inquiry, she said the result should be the "fierce protection of a free press and light touch media regulation".

She added that it was hard to argue for this because of the "unsettling dearth of integrity across so many of our institutions".

"Sadly, the greatest threats to our free society are too often from the enemies within," she said.

'Recipe for disaster'

Independence from regulation, she added, "is only democratically viable when we accept that we have a responsibility to each other and not just to our bottom line".

Image caption MasterChef is one of the programmes made by Shine, where Murdoch is chairman

Ms Murdoch is chair of the Shine Group and is only the fourth woman to deliver the speech since the festival's inception in 1976.

The last woman to do so before her was Janet Street Porter in 1995.

She used her speech to challenge her younger brother's assertion three years ago that "the only reliable guarantee of editorial independence is profit".

She said he was "clearly being provocative" but insisted that "profit without purpose - or of a moral language - was a recipe for disaster".

While praising the BBC for its Olympic coverage and creative partnerships, Ms Murdoch added: "The BBC needs ITV and Sky to thrive so that they can [all] maintain a position of equality rather than dominance."

After speaking in support of the "universal licence fee", she mentioned that the "biggest challenge" facing the BBC's new director general George Entwistle "may be to demonstrate how efficiently that funding is being spent on actual content".

Independent success

Before the phone-hacking scandal, James Murdoch had been widely considered to be the front runner to take over his father Rupert's media empire.

But the row raised questions over his suitability, despite his repeated denials of any knowledge of the illegal practice at the News of the World.

Image caption Elisabeth Murdoch said she harbours "absolutely no ambition for the top job" at News Corporation

In contrast, Ms Murdoch has distanced herself from the scandal that enveloped her father and brother.

It was she who suggested to her father that James should take a leave of absence from the corporation and step aside.

Having bought and sold US TV stations before a brief stint working at Sky in the early 1990s, she left the family business to build her own successful TV production company.

Although Shine has now been bought by News Corporation, she has made a point of ploughing her own furrow, away from the rest of the family.

Despite Ms Murdoch's personal ambition and independent success, she does not make many public appearances and her profile is not as high as that of her brother James.

'Nightmare year'

Following her lecture, former ITN editor-in-chief Stewart Purvis wrote on Twitter that it should have been titled: "Why I am not my father or my brother."

Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff said there was only "one way" to look at what she had said.

"This is part of a strategic repositioning of Lis Murdoch within the media world, with the business world and within the family," he told the Reuters news agency.

Ms Murdoch returned to the stage to give a Q&A on Friday morning.

In answer to suggestions that she may be positioning herself for a leading role at the top of News Corporation she said: "I harbour absolutely no ambition for the top job."

She explained her motives for giving the lecture by saying "it's been a bit of a nightmare year for the family and I thought it right to stand up and be counted."

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