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    Wednesday, 27 June 2007

    Lords Committee to investigate the impact of media ownership on news

    The House of Lords Communications Committee chaired by Lord Fowler has announced that it is to conduct an investigation into the impact of concentration in media ownership on news output (1,2). This chimes with concerns raised by Ofcom (but not the OFT) over the acquisition by BSkyB of shares in ITV. The Committee has called for evidence on the following questions:

    - How and why have the agendas of news providers changed? How has the content of news programmes and newspapers altered over the years?

    - How is the way that people access the news changing? The Committee is interested in national and regional trends and figures for television, radio, newspaper and on-line news consumption.

    - How has the process of news gathering changed? The Committee is interested in the process of news production, the prioritisation of budgets and the deployment of journalistic resources.

    - What is the impact of the concentration of media ownership on the balance and diversity of opinion seen in the news? Does ownership have an impact on editorial priorities and on news values such as fairness, accuracy and impartiality?

    - How should the public interest be protected and defined in terms of news provision? Are the public interest considerations set down for Ofcom in the Communications Act 2003 enough to ensure a plurality of debating voices in the UK news media?

    The Committee plans a second call, focusing on the concentration of media ownership, on cross-media ownership and on the regulation of media ownership, for later in the year.

    1 comment:

    flylse said...

    it is always an interesting and controversial subject whether media ownership will bear on editorial policies. A recent event could shed some light on it. Rupert Murdoch wants to buy out Dow Jones, but concern has been mounting that he might use his ownership to control the editorial. So a precondition for the negotiation to go ahead is to estalish editorial independence guarantee. We can never preempt by saying that Murdoch will definitely interfere with the editorial, but we need insure against the risk.
    However, media management, whether former editors or current CEO, all deny that their editorial is liable to the owners. Yesterday I watched one FT video tape which interviewed the NBC CEO. He was asked whether they will be "soft" on their reporting on negative news of the GE, the controlling owner of NBC. The CEO responded by saying that contrary to the assumption, the NBC will place GE under more scrutiny, will be more ruthless in reporting on, if any, the negative news of GE, otherwise, the outside world will think NBC is not independent editorially of the owners.
    Another example is a person who had been editors for various UK newspapers before setting up a media company of his own,(sorry, can't remember his name, but he has come to the LSE Media Seminar to give speech). I asked him how he thought of the assumed intereference with the editorial policies by the owners. He had a short pause before responding: the owners will only interferes when they lose money.
    I think both people made their cases, but my argument is whether the owners would step in or not, we need insure against the risk. The ownership rules are always risk-based regulation.

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