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U.K.’s Indie TV Commish calls for easing of regs

LONDON — The Independent Television Commission, the U.K. licensing and broadcasting regulatory authority, in a submission to the Dept. of National Heritage, called Tuesday for a limited relaxation of ownership rules.

The department announced a review of the law last month and invited submissions.

The key points of the ITC’s document are:

  • Groups should be allowed to own any number of regional licenses for the U.K.’s main independent television network (ITV) up to a maximum 25% of total TV advertising revenue, rather than being restricted by the number of licenses as at present.

  • The London licenses should stay in separate hands.

  • The limits on participation in, but not control of, other licenses should be according to a system of market share.

  • The rule restricting a licensee to 20% of the ITV breakfast license, and vice versa, should be retained even if other rules are relaxed.

  • If a fifth terrestrial channel is set up, there should not be undue restriction on ITV company shareholdings — under current rules, an ITV company would be limited to 20%, or only 5% if it already has a holding of 5%-15% in another license.

  • The restriction to 20% of individual holdings in Independent Television News, the commercial news network, should be retained, but the rule requiring ITV license holders to hold less than 50% collectively should be scrapped.

  • Limitations on cross-media ownership will be required to safeguard diversity until open-access distribution (the expansion of services via digital television) is a reality. Otherwise technical innovation could strengthen the position of existing players.

  • The cross-holding rules between terrestrial broadcasters and satellite broadcasters are too restrictive.

  • Limits on holdings by national newspapers in broadcasters and vice-versa should be reviewed as terrestrial TV services lose audience share to satellite services — holdings up to, but not including control, could be a first step.

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