After wide-ranging discussion at a seminar at the University of Westminster involving leading figures in media policy, law and regulation, a group of academics reached agreement on a number of policy reforms. Our recommendations, set out below, were sent for consideration to the House of Lords select committee inquiry on media plurality, which is due to report in January 2014.[A more detailed overview of the discussion is available to download here – PDF]
- There should be periodic plurality reviews more often than those proposed by Ofcom.
- The scope of media involved in such reviews – and in the current PI/merger regime – should be broadened and not tied to old technologies.
- A sliding scale of market concentration (with soft rather than hard caps) should be considered, with discretion to impose behavioural remedies on those with the largest share.
- Parliament needs to set guidance on sufficiency, and on regulatory discretion.
- Decision-making discretion on individual mergers or whether a PI inquiry has been triggered should be invested in an independent board/body rather than Secretary of State.
- That might be a statutory Board of Ofcom, of equivalent status to the Content Board.
- Data gaps in relation to measurement need to be addressed by Ofcom.
- Plurality also needs financial support. Ideas might include some kind of consolidated fund, subject to contestable funding bids for media start-ups in local, regional areas.
- New ideas for revenue-raising should also be considered, based on media subsidies and transfer of resources (within reason) from new technology companies which have benefited from the creativity/journalism of others.
- Ways of harnessing BBC expertise should be sought without top-slicing the licence fee.
Steven Barnett, Professor of Communications, University of Westminster
Natalie Fenton, Professor of Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London
Tom Gibbons, Professor of Law, University of Manchester
Peter Humphreys, Professor of Politics, University of Manchester
Martin Moore, Director, Media Standards Trust
Horatio Mortimer, Consultant, Sovereign Strategy
Stewart Purvis, Professor of Journalism, City University London
Justin Schlosberg, Lecturer in Journalism and Media, Birkbeck, University of London
Damian Tambini, Director, LSE Media Policy Project
Judith Townend, Research Associate, University of Westminster
Lorna Woods, Professor of Law, University of Essex