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Media shares soar as government
unveils new ownership rules

LONDON - Media stocks were buoyed by today's announcements on the relaxation of media ownership rules, led by the two ITV companies Carlton Communications and Granada, which were up 5.6% and 6.2% respectively this afternoon.

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Carlton's shares were priced at 243.75p this afternoon and Granada was at 150p as the market reacted favourably to news that the government is to scrap the current rule prohibiting single ownership of the two London ITV licences.

BSkyB also saw its share price soar, up 4.8% to 851p, as the FTSE 100 index recorded a gain of only 0.1%. It was worth 5301.5 points this afternoon.

Radio groups have also benefited from the change in media policy, as outlined by culture secretary Tessa Jowell.

Capital Radio was up 4.1% to 822.5p, and Scottish Media Group, owner of the Virgin radio stations, was up 4.5% to 152.5p. Scottish Radio Holdings, the subject of speculation that it is to sell its struggling Score Outdoor poster division, saw slighter gains, up 0.29% to 862.5p.

It was not just the broadcasters which saw significant gains. The advertising groups were also experiencing their most buoyant day in a long time, with WPP Group up 6.1% to 736p. Aegis Group, owner of Carat which scooped TotalFinaElf's £28m media-buying account this week, was also flying high. Its shares were up 4.8% to 104.25p.

In the media sector, Pearson was up 2.5% to 847.5p, and Reuters was also up, trading 2.3% higher at 767p this afternoon.

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