In a report to Government UK media and communications regulator Ofcom has concluded that, subject to its own recent recommendations on the operation of the media plurality test, no immediate changes should be made to the UK rules on media ownership.
This was a regular review which Ofcom is required to undertake every three years. It looked at the following rules:
- Groups holding more than 20% of the national newspaper market cannot own more than 20% of a holder of a Channel 3 Licence (currently ITV, STV and UTV) or the Channel 3 appointed news provider (currently ITN)
- Various specified categories of person (including, political or religious bodies, advertising agencies, the BBC and publicly funded bodies) cannot have significant interests in companies holding broadcast licences (or in some cases require Ofcom’s approval to hold such licences)
- The provision of news on Channel 3 must be by an “appointed news provider” appointed by all Channel 3 licensees, which is independent of the BBC and any persons restricted from holding interests in companies holding broadcast licences under the above rule
- The Secretary of State has rights to intervene on public interest grounds in mergers involving broadcasting or newspapers.
In a separate review, undertaken in the context of reflections on the recent proposed takeover of BSkyB, Ofcom has recently presented to the Secretary of State proposals to change the way in which the media plurality tests should operate in the UK. Those proposals are still under consideration.
In this latest review, Ofcom has concluded that, subject to those outstanding proposals, it would not be appropriate to make immediate changes to the four rules described above, given that a wider debate on media regulation, including the Leveson Inquiry, is ongoing.