Entertainment & Arts

Public to be consulted on media ownership

Press photographers
Image caption The world's news environment has changed radically in recent years

The government is holding a public consultation on UK media ownership of newspapers, TV, radio and online.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has published the consultation "to question how media plurality should be measured".

It said this was to "ensure the media landscape isn't dominated by too few organisations".

The consultation will also ask whether the BBC, which is publicly funded, should be included.

The process is open until 22 October.

Government policy on this issue usually focuses on ensuring that there is a wide-range of viewpoints available across various platforms.

The 27-page document is aimed at inviting views on new ways to measure plurality in a news environment radically different to when the current model was established, early in the last decade.

The consultation asks the public what media it should include in its study i.e. TV, radio, web content and what genres it should cover.

Top news channels

The consultation said the publicly-funded BBC's "impact on plurality" needed to be assessed.

"The BBC is estimated to have spent about £430m on news and current affairs output during 2011 - more than the remaining UK television and radio news broadcasters combined," it said.

Under the current regime, the secretary of state may intervene to block mergers where there is a public interest concern about the impact on plurality.

TV and radio licences are also barred from people whose influence may be of "concern", such as advertising agencies.

Public service broadcasters have a range of further obligations, while TV and radio broadcasts are subject to rules on due accuracy and impartiality.

Data in the consultation report said that while the BBC produces 25% of the news broadcast on television, it accounts for 73% of TV news viewing.

Across all platforms, the BBC reaches 86% of people who read or watch news content - compared with 40% for ITV, 28% for Sky and 27% for News Corp.

Media ownership rules

And among the top 20 news channels across platforms, BBC One reaches 65% of adults, 37% ITV, 23% for both Sky and the BBC News website, followed by the BBC News Channel on 22%, the Sun on 16% and BBC Radio 4 on 14%.

Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are also a key consideration of the consultation, along with online aggregators such as Google News. The algorithms used to draw up the list of content, will also be subject to the consultation.

The document also stated that the current media ownership rules "only apply to newspapers, television and radio", adding that "they do not extend to other media organisations that only operate in the online sphere - such as the Huffington Post".

It said that for news consumption, 41% of adults in the UK now regularly access news via the internet. This has this has grown from just 15% in 2002, according to 2012's report from Ofcom on news consumption in the UK.

Much online content is "generated by media organisations that used to reach their audience via another medium eg newspaper or TV" the document said, adding that the internet "has also created an outlet for new voices to reach the public, including a myriad of individual, smaller voices that can be heard, for example through blogs".

Reforms to the way media plurality was calculated were recommended in the wake of the proposed merger of News Corp and BSkyB in 2011 and later by Lord Justice Leveson's report into the culture, practice and ethics of the press.

The consultation said that "online publication should be included within the scope of any new measurement framework for plurality".

Other measures in the document include calling on TV platforms to "end the charging of public service broadcasters to feature on those platforms, in recognition of the value audiences place on that content being available".

Currently, the BBC, for example, has to pay Sky for Sky to carry its programming and listings.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites