Ofcom advises against media ownership limit
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's media regulator on Tuesday recommended beefing up checks on the influence of newspaper and media groups following a review sparked by the furore over Rupert Murdoch's level of control.
Ofcom ruled out limiting market share but urged an audit every four or five years to protect so-called plurality, the diversity and number of voices delivering news and current affairs.
This would replace the current system under which market share issues are only explored in the event of a takeover.
The issue of media plurality came to the fore last year when Murdoch's News Corp tried and failed to buy the rest of pay-TV group BSkyB that it did not already own.
News Corp secured initial government backing for the deal by promising to spin off BSkyB's Sky News channel in response to concerns the deal would give Murdoch too much influence over public opinion.
He eventually had to pull the $12 billion (7.63 billion pounds) bid in response to public outrage at a phone hacking scandal at one of his stable of UK newspapers, the News of the World.
Ofcom said on Tuesday that plurality should be reviewed every four or five years and online media and the publicly-funded BBC should be included as both dominate the landscape.
Determining the clout of a single media group has become harder in recent years due to the explosion of news websites, including the BBC's, and social media sites such as Twitter.
"A market share prohibition is simple to understand, but it is also inflexible," Ofcom said.
"Setting absolute limits leaves no room to take account of the broader context, and this creates a risk that it is not possible to address issues of commercial sustainability and innovation in an appropriate manner.
"On balance, Ofcom does not believe a prohibition on market share is currently advisable. Instead, in the interests of flexibility, plurality concerns brought about by high market share should be addressed through a periodic plurality review."
(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by David Cowell)
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