U.K. may ease ownership regs

LONDON — The British government has launched a review of U.K. media ownership laws that could make it easier for newspaper owners to enter commercial television.

National Heritage secretary Peter Brooke, the minister responsible for press and broadcasting, said rapid technological advances and developments in the international media market made the review necessary.

Consumer interest

In a statement, Brooke said the pace of change in Britain’s laws “would be governed by the balancing interests of the consumer and the need to maintain plurality of ownership in a competitive environment.”

Brooke, who in November made it easier for independent television companies to merge, hinted that the review could relax the law limiting newspaper owners to stakes of 20% in terrestrial commercial TV companies.

The rule was designed to prevent powerful newspaper proprietors from building up media empires. But it has appeared increasingly anachronistic in the absence of curbs on newspaper groups owning satellite and cable television firms.

This has enabled Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. to combine ownership of five British daily newspapers with a half share in leading British satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

“The concentration of ownership in the United Kingdom has been a critical factor and that won’t go away,” Brooke told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Look at big pix

“But it would be silly for us to be concentrating purely on what happens in the United Kingdom when the global changes are occurring in a way that they are, ” the minister added.

The review will be conducted by officials from the Dept. of Trade and Industry.

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