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OFT rejects changing ownership rules

16 June 2009

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has rejected demands by big regional press companies that it liberalise ownership rules. After months of campaigning, the NUJ has welcomed the decision.

In a report released today to coincide with publication of the government's Digital Britain strategy, the OFT said it did not believe its rules on media ownership should be revised.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said:

"The NUJ has consistently argued that ownership rules are still hugely important so we're very pleased OFT resisted pressure from media owners.
"The vital importance of vibrant local media to our democracy has been recognised by people on all sides of the debate during the past few weeks. Media plurality must be at the heart of any future ownership decisions.
"The NUJ will continue to press the government for a strengthened public interest test to ensure ownership rules meet the interests of citizens and communities."

The union also said that the impact of mergers on newsgathering should be considered before they are permitted – a policy proposed last year by the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications.

While welcoming the decision to leave the rules unchanged, Jeremy Dear warned companies would still attempt to cut jobs.

"The OFT has said it is open to proposals from media companies the contravene the current rules and media owners will attempt to consolidate their businesses and cut back on journalists.
"That's why we need to ensure we're not just campaigning in Westminster, but also in our newsrooms and among our communities."

Tags: , ownership, oft, digital britain, merger, media plurality