Brexit fears weigh on UK media sector
Liberty Global’s planned donation to anti-Brexit group signals uneasiness
Former London mayor Boris Johnson campaigning for the ‘Leave’ side in the UK’s Brexit referendum. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg
Liberty Global’s plan to donate up to £500,000 to the campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe is the strongest signal yet that the bulk of the British broadcast and telecoms sector is not only firmly in the “Remain” camp on Brexit, but not entirely relaxed about the outcome of the June 23rd referendum.
The owner of Virgin Media Ireland and its subsidiary TV3 will ask shareholders to approve the donation at its June 16th annual general meeting – that the London-headquartered company operates in 12 European countries means it has more to lose than many from the impact of a UK exit from the European Union.
Virgin Media chief executive Tom Mockridge was among the 197 chief executives who signed a letter expressing support for the UK to stay in the EU in the Times in February.
ITV, the owner of UTV and UTV Ireland, said on Thursday that companies were holding back from buying advertising in the build up to the referendum, prompting it to lower its first-half revenue forecast. WPP boss Martin Sorrell also said in March that advertisers had put a freeze on capital investment ahead of the vote.
On newspaper pages, the picture is mixed. Editorially, the Financial Times, the Mirror and the Guardian are all pro-Brussels.
The Daily Mail and Daily Express are pro-Brexit, and the Daily Telegraph, which counts Leave proponent Boris Johnson as a columnist, also leans that way.
The final editorial positions of the Times and the Brussels-baiting Sun, both owned by the usually Eurosceptic Rupert Murdoch, are far from a foregone conclusion.