Euro commish to mull media ownership rules

BRUSSELS — The European Commission is expected to discuss new proposals for legislation on cross-border media ownership in the EU on March 12, following an agreement reached by key Brussels power- brokers.

Commission sources indicated that Mario Monti, the commissioner responsible for the single market, has secured agreement from Martin Bangemann and Marcelino Oreja, the two Euro chiefs responsible for industry and culture, respectively. They have reached a compromise designed to prevent dominance of the media by a few moguls, such as Silvio Berlusconi and Rupert Murdoch, without stunting growth in the sector.

Under plans put forward by Monti in September 1996, a 30% ceiling on ownership by single media (such as TV or radio) would have been imposed, while groups operating in more than one media would have been limited to a threshold of 10% of overall audience share.

Daily Variety understands that the commission’s revised proposals raise the 10% total media share limit, as it would require the breakup of too many existing media companies, and that some flexibility has been introduced in the application of the rules.

News of the imminent discussion of Monti’s proposals was greeted with dismay by media groups in the European Union. The European Publishers Council, which represents major newspaper and magazine publishers across Europe, warned Monday that legislation would run counter to the media industry’s long-term interests.

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