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Brits brace media ownership

Move would make potential takeovers more difficult

LONDON — British government ministers are preparing to back down on a planned relaxation of cross-media ownership rules, the Guardian newspaper reported Thursday.

The paper said the Dept. of Culture was set to accept a compromise proposed by prominent Labour peer David Puttnam that would force large media congloms to take a public interest test if they wanted to acquire television station Channel Five. That would make any potential takeover more difficult.

Last month, shares in British media companies such as Carlton and Granada fell after several peers in the House of Lords threatened to block passage of the pending Communications Bill unless two clauses were removed.

One would allow foreign ownership of commercial television channel ITV, the other would allow a large newspaper company such as Rupert Murdoch’s News Intl. to acquire Channel Five.

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