Ofcom backs regular plurality checks
The UK government should review the media landscape “every four or five years” to check that there is a plurality of voices, and this review should include the BBC, says a new report by Ofcom.
Alongside the BBC, Ofcom also wants online news to be included in the periodic review, which would aim to prevent media firms from becoming too dominant through organic growth. But the regulator rules out the possibility of setting absolute limits on the level of UK media share any one organisation can hold.
Last year, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt asked Ofcom to investigate current media plurality rules following the bid by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to acquire BSkyB.
Ofcom has now told Hunt that the “best approach” to assessing media plurality would be to launch a “periodic review every four or five years”.
“We do not believe reviews should be triggered by metrics or complaints, nor do we believe there should be scope for discretion to trigger a review between the fixed periodic reviews,” said Ofcom.
The regulator also mooted the concept of an “exit trigger”, which would involve a plurality review should a major news organisation pull out of the market. Ironically, the last major news organisation to leave the market was the News of the World.
But Ofcom warned that mechanisms must be in place to ensure the market is not subject to “continuous review”, while it also has to be determined whether the existing merger process should sit within the new framework.