The British government is reportedly considering an embarrassing volte-face over its much-trumpeted plans to remove barriers to foreign ownership of terrestrial TV broadcasters.

Draft communications legislation unveiled earlier this year proposed that non-EU groups should be able to buy companies within the ITV network or the smallest terrestrial player Channel 5. The latter was expected to be a target for Rupert Murdoch.

However, following a barrage of criticism from backbenchers and the Parliamentary Joint Scrutiny Committee examining the Communications Bill, the government is mulling a change of direction.

According to media law firm Olswang, ministers are considering limiting foreign ownership only to companies from nations that allow EU firms to own broadcasters.

This would effectively rule out News Corporation and any other US-based company, as America prohibits foreign firms owning TV or radio groups.

Such a U-turn would be an embarrassment for culture, media and sport secretary Tessa Jowell, who has so far insisted that the government’s policy of opening the sector up to all bidders could not be altered [WAMN: 20-Jun-02].

News source:; additional content by WARC staff