Measuring Media Plurality in the United Kingdom: Policy Choices and Regulatory Challenges

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Abstract:

This article considers the rationales for, and techniques used to promote, media pluralism. It examines why structural regulation is so controversial, with specific reference to the uncertainties surrounding cause and effect in the media field and the technical and economic complexity of media markets.

The paper then considers how UK strategy on media ownership controls has evolved over the last thirty years, increasingly reliant on the 'media plurality' test incorporated in the Enterprise Act 2002. It suggests that a radical re-appraisal of the test is necessary in light of the perceived risk of political intervention and the length and uncertainty surrounding the two investigations that have taken place to date. The paper examines the innovative ?share of reference? test developed by Ofcom in the News Corporation/BSkyB takeover bid and contrasts it with techniques employed in the United States and a number of European countries. It suggests that, of the various forms of measurement that can be employed in this context, consumer exposure appears best able to address converging media markets and provide, an admittedly indirect, indication of media influence. It similarly suggests that fixed ownership limits, though currently out of fashion, provide a relatively clear and effective form of control, reducing potential concerns over agency capture and political influence. It concludes by identifying certain areas where further coordinated research is desirable and notes the potential role that can be played by the European Union in this context.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5235/175776312802483862

Publication date: July 1, 2012

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