Press renews pressure over ownership

Newspaper groups are renewing their pressure on the Government in a bid to relax barriers to greater press ownership of TV interests.

Members of the British Media Interests Group meet on January 17 to finalise a second report to be presented to National Heritage Secretary Stephen Dorrell later this month.

The report will address the thorny issue of the measurement of media influence, proposing a possible system. It is designed to influence the Government’s imminent, but much delayed, cross-media ownership review, which is expected in March.

The BMIG includes Associated Newspapers, Pearson and The Guardian Media Group and The Telegraph, although not News International. Its members object to the current 20 per cent limit on their stakes in terrestrial channels.

“The BMIG is disappointed that Dorrell has taken so long to make a decision and feels that the delay is because of political sensitivity,” says one insider.

But Guardian Media Group chairman Harry Roche is optimistic that the ownership threshold will be increased.

“I do believe the Government is nervous,” he says. “But equally I believe that it accepts that the situation cannot be ignored. In the last month the Department of National Heritage has again become more active on the review.”

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