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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.
Keith, USA

This will lead to the erosion of our entertainment industry

Ray Bates, UK
Bad Idea! The bill opens the door to powerful American TV networks, and will lead to British job losses, and the further erosion of our home grown entertainment industry.
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.
Anthony, Lancashire, UK

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.
Patrick Bailey-Philpott, England

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.
Christopher Clark, England

The government relaxes the law to allow Rupert Murdoch to increase his empire

Nicholas, England
So the government relaxes the law to allow Rupert Murdoch to increase his empire. What's the betting that all of a sudden The Times and The Sun suddenly become pro-euro?
Nicholas, England

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.
Andrew T, UK

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.
Ian Young, UK

Okay, so when will we see the stories about Murdoch donations to New Labour?
Paul R, UK

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.
Bill, UK

It is very dangerous and would not benefit the public

Pino, UK
The Government merely pays lip service to anti-competition and cartels. By relaxing the media ownership rules they are legalising anti-competition, they are legalising a monopoly that would potentially give a "control freak" the chance of manipulating information and news. It is very dangerous and would not benefit the public but only the few with vested interest.
Pino, UK

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
Keith Clear, England

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.
Ian, UK

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.
Phil, UK

It's merely a reflection of the power of corporations set against government inadequacy

Chris C, UK
There is little point worrying about it. It's merely a reflection of the power of corporations set against government inadequacy. Hopefully human nature will revolt against the saturation of advertising, marketing and demand on us greedy consumers who also whine about the cost of living. More channels, more advertising, poor quality programming. Of course it allows Murdoch to set an agenda both commercially, but also politically. I think there will for these very reasons be a move towards more independent media groups who rely on a narrow but informed and high quality agenda, not manipulated by corporations advertising or shareholder interest. Well, I hope that is what will happen anyway!
Chris C, UK

Why don't we make the man President and call it a day?.
Alex Keenleyside, England

Makes no difference to me, have never been able to get Channel 5 anyway!
Timberley C, UK

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.
Peter Judge, West Yorkshire, UK

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.
Matt H, UK

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.
David Moran, Scotland/Australia

Hopefully we will get a new channel "New Labour TV" - that'll be funż Not.
Rob, UK

This will only benefit those who have large stakes in media companies

Sarah, UK
This is a very bad idea. I agree that the government should be reducing legislation and restrictions but this is a very misguided area to change. This will only benefit those who have large stakes in media companies, smaller companies will not have the capital to buy into such ventures. It's surprising that the government can act quickly on issues such as this, where there is little if any public pressure for change, yet there are so many outdated laws, such as licensing laws and motorway speed restrictions, which are never reviewed.
Sarah, UK

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).
Andrew, UK

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.
Leon Welchman, UK

A terrible move

Jonny P, UK (writing from india)
A terrible move, the nation's media is already controlled by a few select companies - as you say, Murdoch owns 30 odd % of the newspapers in the country. The Daily Mail group owns *EVERY* single publication in the entire south west of England, with the exception of The Big Issue. Democracy relies on constant questioning of the government and a range of fresh ideas. How can the people make an informed decision when a select few executives decide the opinions of a nation?
Jonny P, UK (writing from india)

Can anyone explain just why centralisation and reduced competition within the media is a good thing?
Blewyn, UK

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.
Martin, UK

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.
Jason, Manchester, England

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.
David, UK

Media ownership laws exist for a reason - to keep one person or group from owning too much of the pie

Stacey Turner, American in the UK
Absolutely not. Media ownership laws exist for a keep one person or group from owning too much of the pie. British television has been teetering on the brink of banality for some time, but if the floodgates are opened, it will become as dull and lifeless as American television...just wait and see.
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.
A.A., US

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.
Tamzin, France

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.
Richard Greaves, UK

Shame on the Government for even contemplating this move

Les, Brit in USA
Never mind media groups, what about media empires? Murdoch's in particular. So Murdoch increases his hold on the UK media and the Sun will continue to shine on Blair and his new Labour. Shame on the Government for even contemplating this move.
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.
Leigh, USA (UK Orig)

I would like to be the first to congratulate Mr Murdoch on his recent acquisition of the United Kingdom.
Alan Sircom, UK

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.
George, USA

We really need to worry about this

Jack Burge, England
Potentially this could be an absolute disaster. Putting the media under the control of fewer and fewer people is another nail in the coffin of what is left of freedom in this country. Do people really think that this is about quality of entertainment? It is about individuals having the power to control the truth. The only way that we can retain any vestige of true perspective is to keep the media diversified, and competitive. Relaxation of the present media laws will open the door to all the "kingmakers in waiting", to force-feed us with their own political agendas, irrespective of whether they have our interests in mind or not.

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.
Jack Burge, England

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.
Claire, Wales

The government needs to be very careful about letting this particular genie out of its bottle

Chris B, England
With Rupert Murdoch's arrival in British television we will enter the age of hard line conservative tabloid TV. The government needs to be very careful about letting this particular genie out of its bottle. Why? Because it was Murdoch himself who famously said: "Monopolies are a terrible thing - unless you have one."
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.
Baz, UK

We need more people like Murdoch to bolster our TV value

Henry Kelloge, USA/UK
As a former Brit living in the US, I think it's time to do all we can for Rupert Murdoch. His US channel, Fox, comes up with the greatest programs (like 'When Good Pets Go Bad III'). He hilariously sucks up to China to get broadcasting rights there, and in general he's an entertaining guy. We need more people like Murdoch to bolster our TV value. Bring on Rupert!
Henry Kelloge, USA/UK

It would be a disgrace. Murdoch has far too much power as it is.
David Young, UK

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.
John, France

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!
Leonard Jarman, UK

See also:

07 May 02 | UK Politics
Media ownership laws to be relaxed
20 Jun 01 | TV and Radio
Communications Bill on back burner
11 Jun 01 | TV and Radio
Tessa tackles in-tray
22 Mar 02 | TV and Radio
Murdoch's TV dreams 'to be dashed'
28 Mar 01 | TV and Radio
Murdoch: Still going strong at 70
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