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NUJ warns against relaxing UK media ownership laws

29 January 2009

The NUJ has warned the UK government not to relax media ownership laws after an official report recommended a review of current rules.

The interim report from Lord Carter's Digital Britain project has proposed a review of media ownership regulation by the Office of Fair Trading and the communications regulator, Ofcom. The union has expressed concern that severe damage could be done to quality journalism if companies are allowed to further consolidate ownership of media outlets.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, said:

"Whilst, on the one hand, the government talks about the importance of plurality in the media, on the other it is considering a relaxation of the very rules that protect it.
"Politicians must take care not to allow policy to be dictated by media owners who have shown scant interest in investing in the editorial resources needed for quality journalism.
"Last year, regional press companies argued against BBC involvement in local video because they said it would stop them investing. Then, with the potential competition seen off, they pushed on with massive cost cutting programmes that are resulting in journalists' jobs being slashed and the quality of local media damaged.
"It's vital for the government to look for solutions to support local media that will enhance the quality of journalism available, rather than simply allowing existing owners to wreak their damage on a larger scale."

The NUJ's jobs summit on Saturday vowed to organise a lobby of the UK parliament to highlight the dangers posed by cutbacks in the industry.

Despite concerns around changes to media ownership rules, the union has welcomed the emphasis in the report on defending copyright holders against piracy.

Speaking about proposed initiatives to offer greater protection to the owners of creative rights, Jeremy Dear added:

"We would be very interested in meeting with ministers and civil servants to explore these ideas further. Anything that can be done to ensure the people creating content get a fair deal for their work has to be welcomed."

Tags: , ownership, digital britain, media plurality, ofcom, regulation, bbc, newspapers, regional media, cuts, copyright, government uk