The government has defeated an opposition challenge in the Lords to amend the Communications Bill so that media magnates such as Rupert Murdoch would be unable to buy broadcaster Five, formerly Channel 5.
Rupert Murdoch is reportedly interested in Channel 5
Liberal Democrat peer Lord McNally backed by Conservative Lord Crickhowell, urged peers to back an amendment preventing a national newspaper owner with a national market share of 20% or more from
holding the channel's licence.
But the proposed amendment was defeated by 167 votes to 137.
The move came during the final third reading stage of the bill and despite a
pledge from the government last week to introduce a new "plurality test",
after talks with film producer Labour peer Lord Puttnam.
The test would ensure media owners are are committed to a balanced and impartial
presentation of news and comment.
The bill will involve the biggest shake-up of the media in more than a decade, with Ofcom given responsibility for regulation across the sector.
Concern has been expressed that broadcasting deregulation under the bill could see US-style "dumbing down" of British TV.
"This amendment seeks to put specific restrictions on the ownership of Channel Five, which would create a concentration of power in any industry and in the communications industry it would constitute a threat to our democracy," said Lord McNally.
But Lord McIntosh for the government had urged peers to reject the amendment saying
"there are a range of protections and controls that the bill puts in place in
the event that Channel 5 grows to the size of ITV".
He added: "Ofcom could alter the Channel's original programme requirements, or the
quota for independent productions could be changed by order by the Secretary of
State if Channel 5's audience share becomes broadly equivalent to that of ITV.
"There are plurality tests which will allow the Secretary of State to intervene in cases where she believes a merger causes sufficient plurality for
it to be blocked or for conditions to be attached.
"The tests would enable us to look at a newspaper acquisition of Channel 5
with a view to ensuring a minimum level of plurality is maintained."