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Media ownership consultation to launch

LONDON - The UK government is to launch a public consultation later this month on relaxing media ownership laws, which could remove regulatory barriers preventing Rupert Murdoch from expanding into terrestrial television in the UK.

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Murdoch is currently prevented by the 1996 Broadcasting Act from owning part of a terrestrial broadcaster. The Act bars owners of national newspapers who control move than 20% of the newspaper market from owning more than 20% of terrestrial UK broadcasters.



The act was clearly created with curbing Murdoch's hold on the UK media industry. Through his ownership of The Times, Sunday Times, The Sun and News of the World, he controls 30% of the UK newspaper market.


He is also prevented by a law that stops any non-European company from owning more than 20% of one of the terrestrial TV licences.



However, the new draft bill, which is expected next year after two rounds of consultation, is being drawn up with a clear set of rules designed to encourage competition and protect consumers, while removing the "personal and proscriptive" features of the Broadcasting Act.



The bill would also allow ITV companies Carlton and Granada to merge to form a single ITV, although competition authorities would likely stand in the way of a full merger between the two for a couple of years.



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