HC Deb 16 December 2002 vol 396 cc524-5
8. Mr. John Grogan (Selby)

If she will make a statement on the Government's policy on whether owners of large shares of the national newspaper market should be able to own terrestrial TV stations. [85576]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell)

We will deregulate cross-media ownership to promote investment in growth while retaining the key rules that safeguard a plurality of media voices. The Communications Bill, which is currently in Committee, therefore makes it possible for a large newspaper group to own Channel 5, which at present has only a 6 per cent. audience share and 80 per cent. coverage of the UK. To safeguard plurality, however, we will keep the rule that prevents a large newspaper proprietor buying into ITV which, in contrast to Channel 5, has universal access to a mass audience.

Mr. Grogan

Surely as a representative of the nice party and in the interests of plurality and democracy, my right hon. Friend must be a little worried about giving one man who owns 30 per cent. of our national newspaper market and the dominant satellite subscription system the chance to own Channel 5—a terrestrial channel with no public service obligations—and to cross-promote and hoover up rights, as that would seriously undermine other commercial broadcasters with significant public service roles, such as Channel 3 and Channel 4?

Tessa Jowell

My hon. Friend has raised these matters on a number of occasions. He will be aware that the proposals in the Bill are proprietor-neutral. There are clear codes of guidance in relation to cross-promotion, which are currently monitored by the Independent Television Commission and will become the responsibility of Ofcom, once it is established.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)

Does the right hon. Lady believe that the competition aspects of the Bill will be strong enough to deal with the type of scenario that she has just set out?

Tessa Jowell

Yes, precisely because of the balance between deregulation to promote competition and the safeguards to ensure that high-quality programming continues on our screens and radios.

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