Lords likely to reject Five review

Bill would lift ban on newspapers owning net

LONDON — The U.K.’s Labor government is facing defeat in the House of Lords, Parliament’s upper chamber, over a proposal to introduce a public-interest test for any large newspaper group that wants to buy commercial web Five.

The bill would lift the ban on newspaper proprietors owning Five, opening the market to Rupert Murdoch’s News Intl., which owns four Blighty newspapers.

The Dept. of Culture, Media and Sport has not been able to come up with an agreed wording of the amendment to the Communications Bill in time for today’s vote in the House of Lords.

If the government is defeated, it could bring forward its own public-interest proposal at the bill’s third reading Tuesday, or less likely, overturn it in the House of Commons.

Filmmaker David Puttnam, who led last week’s rebellion, said he was disappointed that the wording of the amendment had not been approved in time for the vote, but predicted that some form of public-interest test would be included in the final bill.

Last week, the government suffered a heavy defeat in the upper chamber, which voted in favor of putting consumers’ interests at the heart of the duties of super-regulator Ofcom. This will give Ofcom the right to demand a probe into any company that intends to buy into the commercial webs.

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