Blair Administration Spells Out Media Ownership Stance

16 December 2003

The British government is attempting to play down the significance of last week's decision by the Radio Authority to deny newspaper group Midland News Association permission to buy Telford FM, a local radio station broadcasting in its circulation area.

That decision, the first of its kind since the passing of the Communications Act, was seen by many as an indication that public interest and local diversity will be major factors when considering media takeovers.

Not so, the Department of Trade and Industry hastened to persuade on Monday. Trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt does not expect to inconvenience Big Media all that often with such matters, reassured a spokesman.

In a merger consultation paper issued yesterday, the DTI said ministers would intervene on "public interest" grounds only when a cross-media takeover could affect "the accurate presentation of news, free expression of opinion and a sufficient plurality of views in newspapers".

Under the new Enterprise Act, the government has dropped the political hot potato of overt intervention in newspaper mergers; nor will such activities automatically be referred to the Competition Commission.

The consultation exercise has a three month lifespan during which submissions from all interested parties will be considered.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff