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Friday, 2 August, 2002, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Should media ownership laws be relaxed?
Plans to pave the way for companies from outside Europe to buy UK television and radio stations have been strongly opposed by an influential committee of MPs and peers.
The proposals included in the government's draft Communications Bill, which could allow Rupert Murdoch to make a takeover bid for Channel 5, should not be considered until new regulator Ofcom had reviewed the issue, the joint committee said.
The law banning large newspaper groups from buying Channel 5 and radio licences would be scrapped under the new plans, but the joint committee warned against the move, saying it would result in the creeping "Americanisation" of schedules.
What do you think? Should existing laws on media ownership be relaxed? Or will this make the broadcasting market too accessible to private media groups?
It's refreshing to see a preponderance of views from the anti-deregulation camp. I do not believe, in today's global free market, that there can be enough regulation. Media networks throughout the world are facing an ever growing threat of Americanisation and its attendant homogenization of culture across the planet.
Yes, the broadcasting market must be flexible enough to accommodate a raft of both domestic, and foreign companies, but an unregulated market is never a level playing field allowing equal competition. It leads instead to monopolisation. If the leviathan of the Murdoch-style corporation is not tamed, our media's fate is sealed.
Buying a few American programmes is a bit different than handing over whole stations and more importantly editorial policy. Having seen "real" American tv they are welcome to it! In Europe and that includes the UK the broadcasting tradition is for the programmes to come first and adverts second. The opposite is true in the US and one wonders how long before we would be pushed down the same path by the lobbying of US offshoots. Besides what's wrong with making our own tv?
As for Mr Murdoch, he already has access to over 6 million homes. If he wants to broadcast free to air, presumably he has the resources without being allowed to also take over Channel 5, which is fine as it is and better than ITV or Sky 1. You should try it sometime Helen.
To those who object to "state-owned" control of the media, it should be remembered that the state is controlled by the people - not politicians. The BBC is a lot closer to a "free" press than we can ever expect under open market conditions.
I agree with most comments here.
I want variety, and quality, in the
programmes I watch. I want
unbiased news and stimulating
discussion programmes. As far as
I am concerned, there should be
a good mix of documentaries and
dramas, films, soaps, etc, etc.
Anything that might reduce this, or
further undermines our (sadly
Americanised) culture, is definitely
a bad move. Personally, I rarely
watch commercial TV as it is. I
would estimate that at least 90%
of my viewing time is spent on BBC.
If British TV channels go over to US ownership then expect to see a radical increase in commercial breaks and poor television. Viewers will switch over in the millions. For every high quality TV show you will get twenty poor quality shows. I've lived in the US. ER and CSI may be good but they also come with six commercial breaks and umpteen poor rip offs. TV news will also decline in quality and will give biased reporting. Do not allow this to happen. The advertisers and the US chairmen, (and we've heard a lot about them lately) will rule and ruin.
No one should dominate the world of media broadcasting. The situation we have is bad enough. A single overriding power would be nothing short of a tyranny!
We have cable television in a small Michigan town. For $35 a month, we have 56 channels of unmitigated rubbish most nights, not to mention ENDLESS reruns, with an occasional bright spark on the public broadcasting system when they show a BBC drama or mystery programme. That's the kind of television that the UK can look forward too if the Americans get their fingers into the markets. Everything is aimed at the lowest common (and I DO mean common) denominator.
De-regulation means less choice, not more. It allows big corporations to buy up all the channels; and corporations like safe, sanitised TV that doesn't offend the rich and powerful.
We need to be very careful about letting foreign companies own our media services. Already we are becoming too 'Americanised' and are losing our national identity. The UK is NOT a subsidiary of the US (whatever Blair and Bush may think!) and should fight to retain its individuality and national traditions.
Whoever controls the media controls the pulse of the nation. To allow one person to control everything is not only stupid, it is dangerous. Look what Putin in Russia and Berlusconi in Italy are doing with their control of the media.
If one man or a small group of people are allowed to set the agendas, democracy is gone. The ideal would be to break up the current big media groups, rather than allow consolidation. This would allow a true variety of voices to be heard.
I think the proposals don't go far enough. The BBC should be included in the process of change too. It should be broken up, sold to commercial operators and we can all save £105 a year.
Who cares what they do with Channel 5! Does anyone watch it anyway?
To argue that Murdoch's purchase of Channel 5 would damage media independence is narrow. There are other issues: the media's reliance on corporate advertising and the government's ability to hold the media to ransom by rationing access to official sources. Chomsky argues that the whole way the media works makes it inherently biased and unfree. I doubt he, or anyone else, would see Murdoch's possible acquisition of Channel 5 as anything more than a flea on the monster's back.
Relax the laws straight away.
And if the quality is not up to scratch then people will stop watching and the advertisers will walk away.
The share value will fall or the station go bankrupt and the BBC can then take it over.
The quality will improve and the advertisers will come back.
Let's let Mr Blair decide; I'm sure a large cash donation to the Labour Party would point him in the right direction.
If this proposal goes through, I will be dumping the TV in the bin and reading many, many more books.
The media is a service as much as a private enterprise. Allowing complete deregulation will mean that in a few years the biggest companies will own everything, quite literally. That would be a disaster. Do we really want the likes of Murdoch and Turner controlling all the information we receive? We have to ensure diversity, and that means restricting the number of media outlets that are owned by any one individual or company. A free market does not always lead to diversity or benefit democracy.
Certain national newspapers campaign tirelessly against the BBC - never mentioning that the company which owns those newspapers also owns rival TV and radio stations. The idea that this could happen more and more is offensive. The current regulations are good ones and should be kept.
No, we should return to the regional structure for independent TV, and prevent the merging of local radio as well. Satellite broadcasters should be made to choose between subscription and advertising - and should not be allowed to have both.
Media ownership regulations are the last gasp of state censorship of the press. If the government controls who owns the press, and limits it to those firmly within their area of legal control then they still have some influence on the freedom of the press. Get rid of these anti-competitive and dictatorial restrictions now!
Americanisation? I grew up on imports so that battle has already been lost. The UK alternative seems to be more soap than anyone's got time to watch, endless DIY/cookery programmes and unfunny sitcoms and WWII documentaries. It's not the nationality of the owners that matters, it's whether they can improve on what's already on our screens. We should wait for the DTT rollout and see what we get on the other 19 channels before relaxing the laws.
David Moran, Scotland/Australia
No, keep Murdoch and his sloppy, lowest common denominator programming off our TVs. I don't want wall-to-wall Big Brother with an ad break every five minutes!
I don't agree. The quality of TV and the media in general has declined since deregulation. Do we really want to see total commercial capitulation? In the US, TV is driven by advertising to the point that most programmes aren't worth watching. Too much media control by any one individual provides too convenient a platform for the views of that person to be publicly aired. You only have to look at The Sun newspaper, whose political slants are routinely adopted by its readers. This is not a good idea.
Mark B, England
Mark B, England: When the market decides, all that happens is the lowest common denominator rules. Commercial TV exists only to sell products. Believe it, it is true.
There is no way that someone like Rupert Murdoch should be allowed to take over even more of our media. He's already ordered all his newspapers to print anti-euro rhetoric, therefore stifling debate in those papers. I don't want to see that happening on TV and radio as well.
No relaxation of ownership rules should be allowed until the US does the same. Do we really want a man like Murdoch who will change his nationality in order to forward his business aims to own more than he already does? As a US citizen he already sticks his oar in where he shouldn't with his distrust of the EU.
A free press is essential to the functioning of a democracy. That is to say a press which is not only free from the influence of government but also free from the influence of major companies. Rules limiting the purchase of television channels should remain to reduce the proportion of the media that can be controlled by any one actor.
If the Americanisation of schedules means more first class drama such as 24 and The West Wing and less home-grown inanity like Big Brother then this proud Brit says "bring it on"!
Susan, UK: Two programmes are not enough to form a view of US programming. I think that deregulation would allow those with too political an outlook an easy way to pass on their biased messages. Ironically, the more deregulation there is, the less fair things seem to become.
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