(II) SPECIFIC RESTRICTIONS ON OWNERSHIP |
227. Notwithstanding the more flexible plurality
test which we recommend, there is advantage in specifying where
specific prohibitions on ownership should be retained. The
Government proposes to maintain the current prohibition from holding
broadcast licences on bodies whose objects are wholly or mainly
of a political nature, affiliated bodies and the officers of such
bodies. This is
because the Government is not satisfied that "a political
organisation could run a broadcasting company with the necessary
We have received no evidence to suggest that this is other than
a very sound judgement.
228. The Government does, however, propose to lift
two other types of prohibition. Local authorities are currently
the subject of a general prohibition on ownership.
Clause 231 would lift that prohibition solely in respect of television
and radio services used by local authorities to provide information
services to the communities they represent.
The Association of Local Government Communications welcomed this
proposal, considering that it would support local authority powers
contained in the Local Government Act 2000 to promote the well-being
of their locality, to develop the role of community leaders and
to promote a local community vision.
Both the National Union of Journalists and the Newspaper Society
expressed concern about this change, in the light of its possible
effects on democratic debate and the proper use of public money,
and in view of the potential conflicts of interest relating to
It is important that the Government clarify, before detailed
consideration of the final Bill, how it envisages the broadcasting
licensing enforcement regime and the governance systems relating
to local government working together in order to ensure proper
oversight of broadcasting services provided by local authorities.
229. The Government also proposes to lift altogether
the prohibition on ownership of broadcast licences by advertising
agencies. It proposes
to do so because it considers that competition law will enable
competition authorities to ensure effective regulation of the
BECTU, the National Union of Journalists and Channel 4 all expressed
concern about the proposed lifting of the restriction.
We share their concern; there is an unquestionable conflict of
interest between ownership of an advertising agency and of a commercial
broadcast licence. We recommend that the prohibition on the
holding of broadcast licences by advertising agencies or groups
which own advertising agencies be retained.
422 Broadcasting Act 1990, Schedule 2, Part 2, para
1 (1) (d) to (hh); Media Ownership Rules, para 6.1.2. Back
Policy, para 9.3.2. Back
Broadcasting Act 1990, Schedule 2, Part 2, para 1 (1) (c). Back
Policy, para 9.3.2; EN, para 391. Back
Ev 438, para 3.1. Back
Ev 520, para 4.2; Ev 370, para 27; Q 941. Back
Clause 264 (1) (b). Back
Media Ownership Rules, para 6.1.2; Policy, para
Ev 332, para 9; Ev 520, para 4.2; Ev 204, para 4.32. Back