UK Concedes Media Ownership ‘Plurality’ Test to Bill Rebels

27 June 2003

Following resistance of Alamo proportions, the Blair administration has finally accepted the principle of a “plurality test” in its draft Communications Bill, currently in stormy passage through Britain's upper [albeit less powerful] parliamentary chamber, the House of Lords.

Leading the rebels is former film producer and Labour peer Lord David Puttnam who, together with a cross-party group of aristos, earlier this week inflicted a double defeat on the government by forcing two amendments to the bill [WAMN: 25-Jun-03].

Puttnam and the bill’s pilot, culture, media and sport secretary Tessa Jowell, met Thursday to discuss the implications of the two amendments and lawyers are said to be redrafting the appropriate clauses of the bill to include the demanded safeguards.

Lord David (and many other politicians of differing shades) are concerned that the bill in its current form will open Britain’s media ownership floodgates to US companies such as News Corporation and Viacom – while lacking reciprocal concessions by the US government on overseas ownership.

Puttnam, who chaired the government’s cross-party committee to scrutinize the bill, has long argued for a clause to ensure “a plurality of media owners committed to a balanced and impartial presentation of news and comment”.

Secretary Jowell claims to hold a similar viewpoint: that the bill’s provisions should be “proprietor neutral and media neutral” [which, of course, is not the same thing at all].

Data sourced from: Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff