Britain May Revise Media-Ownership Law

By: Bruce Stanley, AP Business Writer

(AP) Newspaper baron Rupert Murdoch would be allowed to buy a British television or radio broadcasting company, under a proposed revision of media ownership rules.

The new rules, presented Tuesday, aim at relaxing restrictions on cross-ownership of the national media while at the same time protecting a diversity of viewpoints.

Among the biggest changes is a proposal to lift restrictions that prohibit owners of national newspapers with a market share of more than 20% from also controlling a license for terrestrial TV.

Murdoch’s News Corp., which claims almost a third of the United Kingdom’s newspaper market, could benefit. In addition to operating BSkyB satellite television, it owns the broadsheets The Times and The Sunday Times together with popular tabloids The Sun and The News of the World.

News Corp. also owns the New York Post and several newspapers in Australia and the South Pacific.

As part of the planned changes, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell also urged that the regulatory duties for the communications industry be unified in a single government agency called Ofcom.

“For too long the U.K.’s media have been over-regulated and overprotected from competition,” Jowell told the House of Commons.

“The draft bill we have published today will liberalize the market, so removing unnecessary regulatory burdens and cutting red tape, but at the same time retain some key safeguards that will protect the diversity and plurality of our media,” she said.

The government also would scrap rules that prevent non-Europeans from owning broadcasters.

However, anyone who controlled more than 20% of the national newspaper market still would not be allowed to control a commercial broadcaster that has nationwide, mass-market coverage.

At the local level, the government would prevent anyone from owning all the newspapers together with the mass-market TV license in any single region or major city.

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