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Relax “Highly Discriminatory” Media Ownership Rules, Murdoch Tells UK Government.

News, 04 February 2002


The British government’s consultation exercise for its upcoming Communications Bill elicited a predictable response from Rupert Murdoch’s British fiefdom News International.

This damned as “too rigid to allow organic growth” and “highly discriminatory” the existing controls – which prevent investors who control over 20% of the national newspaper market (such as Murdoch) from owning more than the same percentage of a national television or radio station.

Flourishing the flag for freedom and patriotism, NI proselytized: “We believe the government's goal of making the UK media industry a world leader can be achieved only by significantly lightening the regulatory burden that currently prevents the industry from fully exploiting its skills and capital.”

The company also attacked European Union regulations barring non-EU companies from owning more than 20% of an analogue UK terrestrial TV licence. Comparing this with the UK newspaper industry, NI cited: “A long history of foreign ownership [that] has brought new investment and innovation, adding to diversity and competition.”

Content was determined by the demands of local consumers, insisted NI’s submission, and foreign owners could not foist their own agenda on British audiences – a claim that surprised observers familiar with the unified editorial stance of Britain's Murdoch-owned press toward such issues as UK membership of the single European currency.

The company also argued that competition law was the best way of regulating newspaper mergers. “We do not accept that there is any remaining justification for treating the ownership of a newspaper publishing company any differently from the ownership of a TV or radio broadcaster for, for that matter, any other product,” it said.

“A properly competitive market is a pluralistic market in the sense of the government's policy objective.”

News source: MediaGuardian.co.uk