UK Government Digs in Over Foreign Ownership of TV

20 June 2002

US media mammoths – and any other non-UK corporation flourishing sufficient moolah – are welcome to buy Britain's ITV network and Channel 5 if they so wish, the government insisted Wednesday. [The BBC and Channel 4 are, of course, publicly owned and not up for grabs – yet!]

The determination of the Blair administration to hold to its policy of a TV ownership free-for-all was voiced by Tessa Jowell, the secretary for media, culture and sport in an address yesterday to the Social Market Foundation, an apolitical “independent think tank”.

In a rebuttal of the report of the Communications Bill Parliamentary Joint Scrutiny Committee - which recommends media ownership reciprocity with the tightly sealed US market [WAMN: 19-Jun-02] - Jowell recited the party-line: “We are clear that we want more foreign investment from beyond the EU and we will lift the existing rules to allow that. At the same time we'll negotiate reciprocity, but it is not a condition. We want the investment before we want the reciprocity.”

Jowell did not, however, favour her audience with an explanation of this curious governmental negotiating tactic which concedes everything before it starts to bargain. Nor did she explain why it is so desirable that the investment comes from overseas – cash is cash is cash, as Gertrude Stein might have said.

Some attendees also believed it significant that Rupert Murdoch’s associate and quondam editor of the Sunday Times, Andrew Neill, used his address to the conference to rubbish ITV. Said Neill: “ITV has been nothing short of a broadcasting basket case. The government is so disillusioned with ITV it has opened it up to anyone else who like to have a shot.”

Among those training their sights on ITV and Channel 5 is Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff