We all know that it wasn’t just the impunity from the lack of a proper press complaints system that led to phone-hacking and media intrusion. It was a sense of invincibility arising from the power of the concentration of media ownership.
Monopoly ownership inhibits a diversity of views, and competition. It is bad for our democracy and bad for the consumer. Above all, it places too much power in the hands of one man. Rupert Murdoch owns too many newspapers. 34% of national circulation – two of our biggest daily papers, and two of our biggest Sunday papers – is too much.
Despite the financial pressures facing newspapers and people now getting their news online, newspapers are still powerful, still wield significant political influence, and still set the news agenda. The failed News Corp bid for the whole of BSkyB focused attention on cross-media monopoly. But owning too much within one sector – owning too many newspapers, for example – is also a problem.
The Leveson Report made recommendations on media ownership and plurality. And it is a key issue which we must address.
Work needs to be done. Much important work has already been done. We propose that the Government returns to previous work and builds on it.
A notable example of that is the Joint Committee of Both Houses, chaired by Lord Puttnam, which scrutinised the Communications Bill in 2002. That report made a number of
recommendations about the role of Ofcom, about ensuring plurality was a consideration in mergers, and about the level of ownership that should be permitted. Their expertise must be put to work on the Leveson recommendations on ownership.