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Stopping Rupert Murdoch: The Story

Press conference image

It's an amazing time for our democracy, and our community. Together, we took on the world's most powerful media baron, opposing the biggest deal of his career, and won!
After seven months of campaigning, 1 million online actions, 250,000 messages to official consultations, 2 polls, 8 stunts, legal threats and thousands of phone calls to our leaders, Murdoch has been forced to abandon his bid for BskyB!

Jeremy Hunt himself has recognized it was our campaigning that repeatedly delayed the deal going through. People power stopped Murdoch for months, and when the most recent hacking scandals broke, we cut through the spin and helped get a real judicial inquiry and evaluation of the fitness of the Murdochs to own British broadcasters.

Now Murdoch’s political friends -- who used to hang on his every word -- have abandoned him, his CEO Rebekah Brooks faces criminal charges and London's most senior police officer, Sir Paul Stephenson has resigned . And the US and Australia are pushing for their own Murdoch investigations -- threatening the survival of the entire News Corp empire!

Here's how we all did it...

When we first started campaigning against Murdoch in November 2010, everyone told us we couldn't win , his bid for complete ownership of BSkyB was a done deal, and we would be crushed like others that dared to cross him. But UK Avaaz members were determined, and we sent tens of thousands of messages to the media regulator Ofcom to stop it.

Ofcom ruled to let the merger go forward without adequate safeguards for media independence, so we sent 50,000 messages to Prime Minister David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt, calling for a full review of the bid. But Hunt gave in to Murdoch and said he would approve the BSkyB deal if he gave limited independence to Sky News. That same morning we built a bed in a London street to show the cosy relationship between Cameron and Murdoch (see right). This image appeared all over the media. Tainted Love
Then, we upped our game. As, Hunt was about to give the greenlight for the bid to go ahead, members across the UK sent over 100,000 messages to the official consultation to stop the deal, and our lawyers threatened to take Hunt to court if he refused to protect the public interest and handed Murdoch control of our commercial media with no effective safeguards.

That's when the tide began to turn...

Protests Our flood of messages and legal submissions caused a four month delay in the BSkyB deal. Hunt's team was forced to carefully read our messages as he madly consulted with lawyers. And week by week, more and more evidence of illegal hacking and invasion of privacy by News of the World leaked out. As each new scandal emerged, Avaaz ramped up the pressure: Members in key constituencies flooded their MPs with phone calls, we ran ads in major newspapers, and we bombarded Cameron, Clegg and Hunt with calls to halt Murdoch's bid. Then, just as the pressure reached boiling point, we released a national poll that showed that  only 5% of British public support of Murdoch's purchase of BSkyB.

Suddenly The News of the World   admitted to celebrity phone hacking and Avaaz leapt into action gathering outside hacking hearings at the Royal Courts of Justice in London and at the Godalming Sainsbury's where Hunt was meeting his constituents. Our message was clear: don’t approve the deal before the truth is known about hacking. Hunt had no choice but to come out and confront us in person, arguing that hacking had nothing to do with the deal. But he did admit he was worried that "lawyers might sue the pants off him" if he approved it.

Hunt was right about his legal risk. To prove it, we sent him a letter from our lawyers explaining why the BSkyB deal was illegal, failed to protect the public interest and handed control of UK media to a dangerous and unfit media mogul. We started preparing a judicial review, briefed key politicians and the media about it and hired an investigator to speed the release of hacking revelations. But Hunt refused to budge, announcing he would give Murdoch the BSkyB prize with tiny concessions after  one more week of public consultation.

But, it turned out to be a very important week...

It emerged that the News of the World had hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. Across Britain people were horrified, and our campaign took off. In just three days, 160,000 of us wrote to Hunt and Cameron, calling on them to freeze the BSkyB deal until a full inquiry had taken place. Then, many of us took to the streets outside Hunt's office and Parliament and day after day showed up to protest with our Murdoch, Hunt and Cameron puppets. Pictures of our stunts made their way across the world, and Avaaz was featured regularly on all the major UK TV channels.

Royal Court

As the News Corporation cover-up fell away and the public realised that hacking had outrageously extended to 7/7 victims and Iraq and Afghanistan war widows, public pressure soared and politicians finally started to speak out. Hunt was  backed into a corner and announced that our deluge of messages meant the deal would not be approved until September . And he finally sent the News Corporation’s proposed merger with BSkyB to the Competition Commission.

But we wanted to see the deal buried. So, Avaaz ran a further opinion poll and fed specialist legal briefings to politicians, the Financial Times and the Today Programme on how the government could block Murdoch's bid. And just before the Parliamentary debate hundreds of us called our MPs and, as one Avaaz member followed Murdoch around London in a Murdoch mask and convict suit, other members rallied outside the House of Commons.

Protest

On July 13, MPs voted unanimously against the BSkyB deal and Rupert Murdoch abandoned the biggest expansion deal of his lifetime!  While we teamed up at a couple of key points with our friends at 38degrees and other organizations, it was the Avaaz movement that led public opposition to this deal month after month, against the odds. One member of our community commented on Facebook : "you can achieve things when you work together in an organisation like Avaaz. We should all be proud that we have shaken one of the big guys to the core."

Additional material...

Watch the video of our stunt outside parliament on 13 July here .
Read member comments from the week of 11 July here .
Add your thought or memory on this campaign here .
See more photos of this campaign here .