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Embargo: Immediate Thursday 13 December 2007
Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659

LORDS COMMUNICATIONS COMMITTEE ANNOUNCE SECOND CALL FOR EVIDENCE ON MEDIA OWNERSHIP AND THE NEWS

The House of Lords Communications Committee has today announced a second Call for Evidence in its inquiry into media ownership and news provision.

For the last few months the Committee has been investigating trends in media ownership and the provision of news and has received evidence from a wide range of witnesses including senior journalists and editors of national newspapers, the Director-General of the BBC and the Chairman of ITV. The Committee has also visited the United States and had meetings with senior figures in News Corporation, CNN, FoxNews, ABC, NBC, CBS, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

In the New Year the Committee intends to focus on the regulation of media ownership and to consider public interest issues. The Committee welcomes evidence from any interested parties and is particularly keen to get responses in the following areas:

Are the requirements in the Communications Act 2003 relating to the quality, quantity, scheduling and impartiality of national and regional broadcast news appropriate? Are they sufficient? Will they be appropriate and sufficient after digital switchover?

Are the public interest considerations for media mergers set down in section 58 of the Enterprise Act 2002 strong and clear enough to protect a diverse and high quality news media? Are the conditions under which the Secretary of State can order a public interest investigation appropriate?

Do current national and local cross-media and single sector media ownership rules set out in UK legislation do enough to ensure a high quality and diverse news media? Or now that most news organizations are moving towards multi-platform operations, have these rules outlived their usefulness and relevance? In this context are there effective actions that can be adopted by news organizations to protect the public interest?

Do any problems arise from having four bodies involved in the regulation of media markets (the OFT, Ofcom, the Competition Commission and the Secretary of State)? Are there any desirable reforms that would improve the effectiveness of the regulatory regime?

Has the lifting of all restrictions on foreign ownership of UK media affected the quality and independence of the UK news media, or will it affect it in the future? Has the UK industry benefited, or does in stand to benefit in the future?

Commenting Lord Fowler, Chairman of the Committee, said:

"The Committee has benefited from hearing from many of those actively involved in news provision. This has given us a clearer picture of how news consumption and provision is changing. We have seen how news organisations are becoming part of larger corporations and we have heard something about the relationship between owners and editors."

"In the New Year we intend to continue the inquiry by looking in more detail at the regulation of media ownership. The Communications Act 2003 changed the rules for media mergers across both print and broadcast news. We will be looking at these new provisions and their effect and we will investigate how the public interest can be best protected."

"We would welcome evidence from any interested parties as we go forward with our inquiry."

Notes to Editors

  1. The deadline for the submission of written evidence for the second part of the Committee's inquiry into media ownership and the news is Friday 8 February.

  2. Full detail of the Committee and their inquiry including the Call for Evidence and previous written and oral evidence can be found at:
    http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/communications.cfm

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