Ofcom: Measuring Media Plurality ('Take Two')
Culture minister Jeremy Hunt asked Ofcom to consider the feasibility of measuring media plurality across platforms (including which platforms, the best approach, and how to take account of the BBC). Ofcom was also asked how practical it is to set limits to protect plurality without unnecessarily restricting growth or producing perverse incentives. In this paper we consider whether Ofcom’s advice stacks up and review trends in media plurality since 2003. We think that there has been a sea change in Ofcom’s view of the world since it investigated the Sky/News takeover.
In this paper we examine the backdrop leading to Jeremy Hunt’s request to Ofcom to conjure up a measurement-based approach to safeguarding media plurality in the UK. We consider the definition(s) of media plurality, trends in media plurality since the 2003 Communications Act, briefly review recent assessments of media plurality in the UK and assess whether it is possible and appropriate to measure it. And whether we agree with the recommendations of Ofcom’s subsequent report:
The Secretary of State asked Ofcom to devise a measurement -based approach to safeguard media plurality in the UK
“Measuring media plurality: Ofcom’s advice to the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport.”
While historically matters of media plurality have been dealt with during competition/ communications legislation and M&A activity, Ofcom in its report on the plurality issues arising from the News Corp/Sky deal suggested that plurality should be considered more broadly and in cases where market growth or company exits led to concerns. We thus review whether it is practical or advisable to set absolute limits on news share more generally and also assess the impact of the internet on news provision and consumption. While we largely focus on plurality across separate independent media groups (‘external plurality’) we note that also of importance is plurality within individual media groups (‘internal plurality’)