British culture, media and sport secretary Tessa Jowell’s plans to let overseas firms buy the nation’s terrestrial TV stations face new opposition from a hitherto unexpected source – the British public.

According to a new survey conducted by Taylor Nelson Sofres on behalf of the National Union of Journalists (presumably a body with a vested interest in keeping media firms UK-owned), 52% of Britons oppose plans to scrap the rule barring non-European Union (i.e. American) companies from acquiring the two privately owned terrestrial broadcasters, ITV and Five. Just 23% support them, while 24% do not know.

Jowell believes lifting the ban on foreign ownership will attract investment into the TV sector, though critics of the forthcoming communications legislation claim the scheme will lead to the television schedules becoming clogged with cheap US imports.

Attitudes to the plan vary by age. In the 16–24 demographic (supposedly the biggest consumers of stateside fare), 42% are in favour of allowing foreign ownership. This falls to one-third in the 35–44 age group and 10% among the over-65s.

There are also variations by sex and by region. Some 58% of women are against the scheme, compared with 47% of men, while opposition is strongest in Wales and Scotland.

“The government's apparent determination to put ITV at the mercy of the global media giants has always been a mystery and is now shown to be untenable,” fumed Tim Gopsill, editor of the NUJ’s The Journalist magazine.

“Their argument is that TV ownership is already open to European companies and that represents an anomaly. But European companies do not produce a huge volume of cheap programming in the English language, ripe for dumping onto our screens.”

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff