Govt asks whether BBC, Twitter, Facebook and Google should be covered by media ownership rules

Culture secretary Maria Miller has launched a consultation on media ownership rules, asking for the first time whether the BBC should be included in any new regime.

The corporation has not previously been subject to any  media monopoly controls.

Alongside the BBC, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will consider whether digital media companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook should be included in a new framework.

The 12-week consultation has taken “as the starting point” recommendations from Lord Justice Leveson on media plurality. These included: to ensure that too much influence is not concentrated with one owner; to include online publications in any assessment of plurality; to set up periodic reviews of plurality.

In the consultation document, the DCMS said current ownership rules, under the Communications Act 2003, were insufficient to cope with “the increasing dynamism of this sector”, such as the rise of online news providers like Facebook and Google News.

The document said: “They [current regulations] were designed at a time when the scarcity of [the]analogue spectrum limited the number of TV channels, and there were high barriers to entering the newspaper market.”

The consultation, which is open until 22 October, will ask what type of media should be included in new regulation, the genres it should cover, the types of organisation it should apply to, whether the BBC should be included and with which audiences it should be concerned.

Currently, the main stautory restrictions on media ownership are that no person who runs a newspaper group with a national market share of 20 per cent can control a licence to provide a Channel 3 or Channel 5 service and that certain organisations, such as advertising agencies or political parties, should not be granted broadcasting licences.

If the 20 per cent rule were extended to include the BBC and online, it could be required to scale back its news website.

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