Media owners in rally for reforms

The Government must act to redress the balance in media ownership legislation, Mirror Group Newspapers chief executive David Mongomery told TV95 delegates last week.

Montgomery was speaking soon after news emerged that the National Heritage Secretary, Stephen Dorrell, has ruled out radical reform of cross-media ownership regulations.

Newspaper publishers re-acted angrily to reports last week that the existing 20 per cent ceiling on a maximum newspaper stake in a broadcaster, and vice versa – may only be increased to 29 per cent.

And on Friday, Carlton Communications chairman Michael Green also attacked the proposed move as insufficient.

With new legislation against News International unlikely, the only course is to ensure other newspaper groups can compete on a level playing field, Montgomery said.

He went on to claim that existing rules were “outmoded” and “damaging”.

Current rules have not helped ITV to become “a more balanced federation”, he added. In fact, they have enabled existing players to limit competition by freezing out newcomers.

Denying suggestions that Mirror Group has plans to take over Scottish Television, the ITV licensee in which MGN now holds a 20 per cent stake, Mongomery predicted that similar partnerships are inevitable.

“Cost efficiencies through partnerships, not takeovers, will become reality. It is not our intention to swallow up ITV frims. We can work with them,” he said.

* STV announced pre-tax profits down from £12.6m to £2m last week. Ad revenue fell 3.2 per cent. Results were hit by a delay in securing an ad deal with Unilever last year.

Columnist, background TV95, pages 19-21

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