Media Ownership and the Public Interest: The Case of Virgin Media, British Sky Broadcasting and its ITV Shares

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The Communications Act 2003 removed many of the existing UK restrictions on media ownership but also added new media public interest considerations to the Enterprise Act 2002. These enable the Secretary of State to request that the Competition Commission consider the potential impact of a relevant merger on media pluralism and diversity. Acting on the advice given by the Competition Commission, the Secretary of State then decides whether the merger is contrary to the public interest and the terms on which, if at all, it should be allowed to proceed. This article considers the first UK merger to trigger the application of the media public interest provisions: the purchase by BSkyB of 696 million shares in ITV in November 2006. It examines the various interpretations given to the media public interest considerations by OFCOM, the Competition Commission and the Competition Appeal Tribunal in that case and questions whether the Secretary of State is ultimately the right person to decide these issues.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2009

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