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Media ownership policy in a recession: redefining the public interest

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As media enterprises steer a path through unprecedented economic upheaval, many are looking to consolidation as a means of achieving economies of scale that would, they argue, shore up their investment in journalism. There is therefore growing pressure on policy-makers to relax traditional ownership rules preventing undue concentration of media conglomerates. This poses a challenge to critical scholars traditionally opposed to such relaxation on the grounds of promoting pluralism and diversity in a democracy. This article argues that, rather than risk the rapid emasculation of original journalism, we should be thinking more creatively about how the public interest and journalistic diversity might be protected within a policy of consolidation. Drawing on recent legislative initiatives in the United Kingdom, it proposes two possible approaches: first, inserting into merger legislation detailed public interest provisions rooted in normative values of professional journalism; and second, on the basis of clear evidence that ownership structures influence content, fostering different forms of ownership that move beyond the traditional privatepublic dichotomy to exploit online and not-for-profit opportunities.
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Keywords: consolidation; diversity; journalism; media ownership; plurality; public interest

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Westminster.

Publication date: 2010-12-01

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