House of Lords calls for tougher media ownership law regulation

A House of Lords report is calling for greater regulation of media ownership laws. It also says that media companies’ rush to grow their online advertising revenues is being done at the expense of quality journalism.

The Lords communication committee Ownership of News report states that Ofcom should be brought in to help investigate the issue of media mergers in order to help maintain competition. Currently, this is handled by the Competition Commission.

It is also calling for local cross-media mergers between newspaper and radio companies to fall under the same public interest test.

The report states that because there is a small number of newspaper owners in the UK, they run the risk of wielding “disproportionate influence” over newsgathering, an issue which needs to be considered as part of the public interest test already in place when approving take over bids.

“The consolidation of ownership in the media that has taken place over the last years has added to the risk of disproportionate influence being exercised by a small number of companies and owners,” the report states.

“In order to ensure diversity of news provision the committee propose strengthening the public interest test for media mergers.”

The committee, led by Lord Fowler (pictured), a former Tory minister and former chairman of the Birmingham Post and the Yorkshire Post group, further says the expansion of the internet has not been replicated in an expansion of jobs for journalists.

In fact, Fowler says the quality of journalism has been degraded, with almost every newspaper and TV company cutting costs and reducing the number of journalists employed. “Much of the news available on the internet and on the news television channels is not new. It is repackaged from elsewhere,” according to the report.

However, Fowler says it is unsure just how many of its recommendations will be taken on by the Government.

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