Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence



MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED BY NEWS INTERNATIONAL PLC

  News International plc is the main UK subsidiary of The News International Corporation Limited. News International subsidiaries publish The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun, News of the World and the Times Supplements. These newspapers account for just under 19 per cent of the total newspaper market, ranking us second behind the UK's largest publisher, Trinity Mirror.

  A full list of all News Corporation's holdings, including those in which News International has an interest, can be found at www.newscorp.com.

  News International is concerned primarily with four areas covered by the White Paper.

  1.  Cross Media Ownership: News International welcomes the review of Cross Media Ownership rules. The present rules are discriminatory, penalise success and are increasingly obsolete. Their presence narrows the range of potential investments available for our consideration.

  2.  Foreign Ownership: Unlike most other aspects of the White Paper, no consultation is planned on the Foreign Ownership prohibitions. These prohibitions, which restrict ownership of media interests on grounds of nationality, inhibit investment by companies merely because they are deemed to be ultimately controlled from outside the EEA. The White Paper argues that these restrictions are required in order to protect European consumers from too much foreign content. NI believes that consumers should be allowed to make their own decisions about what they watch based on their own preferences and tastes. NI feels that this area should be included in the present consultation and that failure to change these restrictions will leave any future legislation open to action on incompatibility grounds under the ECHR.

  3.  Newspaper Mergers: The present special provisions for newspaper mergers should be abandoned and all mergers should be dealt with under normal competition rules.

  4.  Future of on-line regulation: On-line distribution of content has two characteristics ignored by the White Paper. First, it is an extension of traditional publishing and as such should be subject to the same content regulation as is traditional publishing. This self-regulatory scheme has worked well for a decade. Reinforcement with statutory powers is a threat to a free press. Second, on-line distribution is in its infancy and requires large investment by the private sector. Such investment will not be forthcoming if the BBC is permitted to use licence fees and its taxpayer-funded brands to compete in areas where private development is feasible. The mere threat of BBC entry freezes out private investors.

January 2001


 
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