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New legislation plan for media owners

New legislation plan for media owners

Ministers are understood to be drawing up legislation to ease the merger rules governing media owners, according to a report in The Times.

It says that a short Bill, the Digital Economy Bill, is being prepared to implement the conclusions of the Digital Britain review, which will determine the future of Channel 4 and is expected to provide help for struggling newspapers and broadcasters.

The expectation of a Bill gives regional newspaper groups and radio companies hope that they will benefit from an easing of regulations, with the Government increasingly sympathetic to a relaxation of the rules that could allow greaterconsolidation.

A Digital Britain White Paper is expected to be published in early summer although a number of key decisions have yet to be made, such as the future of state-owned broadcaster Channel 4.

The Times reports that ministers believe that it will be impossible to implement the conclusions of the Digital Britain report without new legislation.

The Bill, to be included in the Queen's Speech in the autumn, is likely to comprise around 30 or 40 clauses and looks set to be the biggest shake-up in media regulation since the Communications Act of 2003.

However, the proposed legislation may not become statute, with a general election expected in May or June next year.

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