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Monday, 13 May, 2002, 18:37 GMT 19:37 UK
Should media ownership laws be relaxed?
New government proposals on media ownership could pave the way for Rupert Murdoch to make a takeover bid for Channel 5.
The proposals, published with the government's draft Communications Bill, scrap the law banning large newspaper groups from buying Channel 5 and radio licences.
With the market for satellite and cable broadcasting levelling out in the wake of the collapse of ITV Digital, analysts believe Mr Murdoch has set his sights on a terrestrial broadcaster such as Channel 5.
Ministers have been careful to guard against suggestions that they were giving Mr Murdoch any special favours.
Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt said the proposals were "proprietor neutral", while Culture Minister Kim Howells rejected a suggestion from reporters that the plans could become known as the "Murdoch clause".
What do you think of the government's proposals? Should existing laws on media ownership be relaxed? Or will this make the broadcasting market too accessible to private media groups?
This debate is now closed. Please read your comments below.
My country is virtually devoid of a "free press" following a slew of mergers and acquisitions in the media sector. Now only a handful of corporations control our media. Our news could not be more slanted towards big business. Anti-establishment views are suppressed. Don't let this happen to you! The more decentralisation you have in your media sector, the freer your press will be.
Ray Bates, UK
If Rupert Murdoch takes over, it will be like Sky for terrestrial TV. We really don't need Sky dominating television on a terrestrial platform.
I think that the media ownership rules should be scrapped. Germany has no media ownership rules and America has very relaxed rules. Why should we stop investment in our broadcasting and press industries from respected and wealthy business' or individuals? If we did scrap media ownership rules we could be heading towards a livelier media industry.
By opening up the market to allow foreign firms to take over British media firms we could start to see a dumbing down of programs. British TV makes high quality programs which are shown around the world, by allowing foreign television companies like Time Warner to take over we could start to see less domestic programs on TV and more American programmes.
How can you not be cynical when a law is passed that helps just one person who at the moment happens to have an anti-euro viewpoint. This is being put through parliament regardless of quality and national interest. Nicholas, England was spot on. Witness the Sun and Times papers starting to shift opinion in favour of joining the euro.
Murdoch already has a TV station-Sky. He has produced nothing innovative or original in its 15 years of existence. His organs constantly attack any brave or innovative programme made by Channel 4 and the BBC. His objective is to turn UK terrestrial in to a service industry for US consumer culture TV with its mixture of Puritanism and intelligence insulting pap. One look at the success of HBO programmes like the Sopranos demonstrates that Americans too are fed up with his worthless trash culture.
Okay, so when will we see the stories about Murdoch donations to New Labour?
I'm too young to remember the "Golden age of Broadcasting" but I have lived through some good times. Thank goodness I'll not be around when this chicken comes home to roost! I do feel sorry for my Grandchildren though.
As somebody who enjoys the regional programmes in my area I can only see disappointment coming from the relaxation of the rules. Do we really want a TV equivalent of the Sun when we already have it with a lot of satellite TV channels? Some of us still want TV that informs, educates, stimulates & entertains and I think that this will push us further down the road of American TV
The rules shouldn't be relaxed anymore, because the day will come when if you want to get the news, you can only go to one place to get it, and it will always be his version of it. Freedom of the press is too valuable a thing to throw away.
What possible benefits are there to be gained by allowing Murdoch more of our personal space, his voice is quite loud enough in our media as it is - thank you very much. Unless we want another channel of propagandist current affairs and mindless US sitcoms I suggest we adopt a more diverse vision of our terrestrial media.
Chris C, UK
Why don't we make the man President and call it a day?.
Makes no difference to me, have never been able to get Channel 5 anyway!
Individual newspapers, magazines, TV stations, radio stations should all be independently owned. And profit making companies should be banned from owning them.
The owning organisations should have to sell to, or restructure as Co-operatives, Mutuals, Companies Limited by Guarantee (not shares), or other "not for profit" organisations. Their should be scope for local authorities to own their own broadcast, as well as printed, media; just as the BBC is nationally owned.
News and political comment is too important to be manipulated by people whose primary interest is private profit.
So as other European communications empires flounder, the path is cleared for Mr Murdoch to tighten his vice-like grip on our media. No doubt we can look forward to the unelected and unaccountable Mr Murdoch having an even greater influence over British government policy in the future.
The UK could do a lot worse than let Rupert increase his holding. I guess the other UK media businesses must be afraid of the competition. If you can't beat Rupert, have him join you.
Hopefully we will get a new channel "New Labour TV" - that'll be funż Not.
Well now we all know exactly why all the Murdoch papers suddenly switched to becoming fervent supporters of New Labour before the 1997 General Election. This is the "deal with the devil" whose details we've all been awaiting since then. British television news is about to become as biased and generally appalling as its tabloid counterpart (although anyone watching ITN will know it's been on its way there for a long time).
Rupert Murdoch already owns a third of the world's media, and his corporation is one of just six that controls virtually the lot. The law has now been relaxed in this country so he and others can own more.
Legislation should be reversing this trend, not encouraging it. A balance must be struck between when it is right to open markets and when it is right to keep them strictly regulated. And it can be argued that the media are a special case where market liberalisation is not necessarily always a good thing.
Jonny P, UK (writing from india)
Can anyone explain just why centralisation and reduced competition within the media is a good thing?
I am disgusted that our once enviable broadcasting network is now being bought up and controlled by one man/organisation.
A few decades ago we would have pilloried countries such as Russia for having a state-run propaganda machine. We have now gone one better and got a private one.
ITV Digital down the pan, NTL filing for bankruptcy and Sky TV doing nicely! The reason? Mr Murdoch put on high quality channels through SKY, the others put on nothing but second-rate programmes. It's obvious to anyone that the mainstream channels' quality of programming is going down the pan fast by showing nothing but soaps and game shows.
We have the best TV in the world as things stand at the moment and Tessa Jowell's weak argument about increased competition improving its quality is so obviously wrong she surely doesn't believe it herself. The sad thing is that it's happened now and most people won't even bat an eyelid until we end up with the sort of rubbish the Americans get. Then everyone will moan about TV not being what it used to, a few men will be considerably richer and it will be too late to put it back again.
Stacey Turner, American in the UK
Low "mergers" within the media is dangerous. It sounds harmless enough at first. "It's just one channel....It's just one cable company..." The "free" press and "free" speech are being hampered by such business deals here in America. 20 years ago there were 50 owners of America's major media outlets. Today there are 5. Since 1996, Cable TV prices have increased 43%. CNN is owned by a big cable company, so when NBC wanted to put CNBC on cable, they had to agree not to make it an "all-news" channel that would compete with CNN. With cable becoming the preferred method of internet access, in the not-too-distant future, cable companies can restrict the sites people will have access to. The same thing is happening with radio broadcasting and "regular" TV. It's a very slippery slope to tread on.
Everybody should listen to AA from USA. He is absolutely right! Ask yourself, is Britain for sale? Is English free speech for sale? Fight this law and keep your freedom.
The term I use is "Poodle Politics". This is where the leader of a country obeys his/her paymaster by rolling over, fetching ball and playing dead. In this case the cost of a compliant media during the fast approaching Euro debate.
Les, Brit in USA
US TV news is nothing short of state sanctioned propaganda. If you would like British TV to go the same way then by all means give Rupert all the control he craves.
I would like to be the first to congratulate Mr Murdoch on his recent acquisition of the United Kingdom.
It's about time because English TV is really boring.
Let Murdoch come in, but everybody watch out because his Fox news network in the States has everybody hot under the collar. All the major networks in the States are crying.
We all like to believe that we are much too smart to be manipulated by the press or the media, but if we really examine our beliefs and attitudes, then where do we get them from, if not from what we read, or from what we watch on television? The only thing that validates our knowledge is that it comes from more than one source, but how long will it be before just one elite group, or maybe just one person, writes all our "truth"? We worry too much about the spectre of totalitarian states, and ignore at our peril the threat of the multinational business concerns. These concerns have no agenda but their own greed for wealth and power, no allegiance to anyone but themselves, and no conscience in achieving their aims. We really need to worry about this, believe me.
It is crazy that Murdoch has so much power. It's a shame ITV Digital collapsed because we really need a rival company to Sky.
Chris B, England
I suspect that this decision is just another way for New Labour to develop more support within the media. If this goes ahead they can have more spin promoted as well as producing more sympathetic editors.
Henry Kelloge, USA/UK
It would be a disgrace. Murdoch has far too much power as it is.
Is he one of Tony's pals looking for something back on his investment for backing Labour via his mouthpiece The Sun? The majority of Britons are already controlled by his papers so he might as well influence the rest via terrestrial TV.
Recently Mr Murdoch's group has been less than 100% in its praise for New Labour. This looks like a blatant attempt by Blair to re-establish the relationship forged in 1996. Oh to be a fly on the wall!
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