Daily Mail's Lord Rothermere has most to fear from Labour manifesto plurality pledge

The Labour Party's pledge to tackle "concentrations of unaccountable power" in the media looks like it is targeted at News UK owner Rupert Murdoch.

But any promise to cut down overly- dominant media outlets would have to break up the BBC and/or Google UK first.

If Labour is purely talking about the commercial press (arguing perhaps that broadcasters are impartial under Ofcom rules) then Daily Mail-owner Lord Rothermere has more to fear than Murdoch.

The Labour manifesto says that the “concentration of media power in too few hands is damaging to our democracy”.

If elected the party will take steps to “protect the principle of media plurality” by ensuring that no media outlet can get too big.

It suggests that this is intended to tackle the power of Murdoch when it says: “No media company should have so much power that those who run it believe themselves above the rule of law.” This seems to be a reference to the many prosecutions of mainly News UK journalists prompted by the hacking scandal.

But any change to the media ownership regime which takes into account digital would be unlikely to affect News UK, because of the impact paywalls have had on its overall readership.

The National Readership Survey measures combined digital and print reach of the major daily newspaper brands in the UK.

By its reckoning (full details here), Lord Rothermere has double the reach of his nearest competitor with 37.7m readers a month in the UK for the Daily Mail and Metro in print and online.

Rupert Murdoch is in second place with 18.5m a month reading The Sun and The Times.

Then comes Evgeny Lebedev’s Independent and Evening Standard on 17.1m readers a month.

They are followed by the Daily Telegraph (owned by the Barclay brothers) and The Guardian (owned by the Scott Trust – soon to be chaired by Alan Rusbridger). They are both on 16.3m readers per month in the UK (according to the NRS).

Trinity Mirror’s Daily Mirror and website attracts 17.5m readers per month according the NRS.

 

So if a change in media ownership rules will affect anyone it will be Lord Rothermere’s Daily Mail and General Trust.

But it seems rather unfair to break up the one commercial online news provider who has come close to giving the BBC a run for its money.

If Labour really wants to tackle a media monopoly it should look at Google which has around a 90 per cent share of the UK’s search engine market (worth £3.8bn a year in advertising).

 

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