Ofcom recommends no change in ITV ownership rules

Editor | 23-11-2012

UK broadcast regulator Ofcom has ruled out changes to ownership rules affecting ITV, the UK’s principal independent broadcaster.

The current rule prohibits a newspaper group, for example News Corp’s News Group, with more than a fifth of national newspaper share, from holding a Channel 3 — that is ITV — licence or a stake in a Channel 3 licensee that is greater than 20%. In addition they disqualify certain persons from holding broadcast licences generally, others from holding certain kinds of broadcast licences, and still others from holding broadcast licences unless Ofcom has determined that it is appropriate for them to do so.

Ofcom is required to ensure that regional Channel 3 licensees broadcast news programmes nationally which are able to compete effectively with other national television news, by requiring them to appoint a single news provider between them. Persons who would be disqualified from holding a Channel 3 licence are also disqualified from being the Channel 3 appointed news provider.

In making its recommendations, Ofcom has a statutory duty to review the media ownership rules regularly and counsel for any change to the UK Secretary of State. Changes to the rules since 2009 mean the scope of this review is narrower than previous years. Ofcom said that the wider public policy debate about media ownership is ongoing and believes that any recommendations it makes will need to be considered in light of any changes to the legislative and policy framework. Given that it has not observed any Parliamentary policy rationale for existing rules to have changed, nor any shift in the market context in which they operate, Ofcom is advising no change to the restrictions.

In a statement, the regulator said: “Our advice on measuring media plurality set out that it is for Parliament to decide if and when this rule should be modified or removed and that the conclusion of the first periodic review of plurality is likely to provide greater certainty than is currently available. As such, we do not recommend any changes to this rule in this review.”

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