Consultation has started on the new more liberal media mergers regime that comes into force at the end of the year.
The Communications Act becomes law on 29 December.
The effects of the act have already been felt by allowing Archant to buy Independent News and Media’s North London local newspapers for £62m without a referral to the Competition Commission.
Under the new rules newspaper mergers will only be referred if they go against the public interest.
This has been described in the guidelines as relating to “accurate presentation of news, free expression of opinion and sufficient plurality of views”.
A Department of Trade and Industry statement said the Government “would not expect to intervene in many newspaper cases”.
The tests for intervention in broadcasting mergers relate to “plurality of persons controlling media enterprises, availability of a wide range of high quality broadcasting and commitment to broadcasting standards”.
The deadline for comments to the DTI about these guidelines is 12 March, 2004.
By Dominic Ponsford