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Lords not on board

Rebels rock Blighty b'casting rule rewrite

LONDON — The U.K. government suffered a heavy defeat in the House of Lords, Parliament’s upper chamber, on Monday night over its plans to shake up Blighty’s media in the Communications Bill, which would allow non-European companies to buy commercial webs ITV or Five.

The House of Lords voted 179-75 to put 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.

The rebellion was led by filmmaker David Puttnam and supported by 32 rebel Labor members, including broadcaster Melvyn Bragg and former Granada chairman Alexander Bernstein.

Ofcom changes eyed

Concern has been expressed that broadcasting deregulation under the Bill would result in a concentration of media ownership and U.S.-style “dumbing-down” of British television.

A rep for the Department of Culture, Media & Sport denied the defeat was a setback for the government and said it would consider the principle underlying the amendment and may make changes to Ofcom’s content board to reflect it.

In related news, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has shuffled the ministers in her department. Former education secretary Estelle Morris replaces Kim Howells overseeing film and creative industries, while Bill McIntosh takes over broadcasting.