Hunt calls for new 'cross-platform' press regulation

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt last night challenged the UK media to submit ideas on a new ‘one-stop regulatory framework’for the press that encompassed both print and online content.

In a speech to the Royal Television Society convention in Cambridge yesterday, Hunt said the body likely to replace the Press Complaints Commission would have to cover content across all platforms, including online video and audio.

Hunt also said that even without the phone-hacking scandal the media would have faced ‘difficult decisions’due to the rise of digital platforms.

‘If British media organisations are to develop world-beating cross-platform offerings, we need to offer sensible cross-platform regulation as well,’he said.

‘It cannot be sensible to regulate newsprint through the PCC, on-demand websites through Atvod and IPTV [Internet Protocol television] through Ofcom.

He continued: ‘So although broadcast television will continue to be regulated to broadcast standards, when it comes to a new regulatory framework for the newspaper industry we have an opportunity to look to the future.

‘My challenge to you is this: work with us to establish a credible, independent regulatory framework which has the confidence of consumers and we will support it as the one-stop regulatory framework to be applied across all the technology platforms you operate.”

Hunt said he believed that a cross-platform system of regulation would help the UK produce a new generation of ‘innovative, cross-platform media companies’that were able to ‘grow on the back of the world’s first converged regulatory framework”.

Meanwhile, the Culture Secretary also confirmed that he had asked Ofcom to examine ways of measuring media plurality in the UK.

‘In particular I have asked them to look at whether or not it is practical or advisable to set absolute limits on news market share; whether they believe a framework for measuring levels of plurality could or should include websites and if so which ones; and whether or how it should include the BBC,’he said.

Regulators could also be given have the power to investigate media plurality issues at any time, and not only when a transaction is taking place.

‘One of the main things to emerge from the BSkyB merger proposal was the fact that public interest interventions can only take place when there is a specific transaction to approve,’he said.

‘I believe media plurality should mirror competition policy more closely, with independent regulators given the right to start investigations into media plurality and propose remedies to protect plurality even in the absence of corporate transactions.”

Hunt also called for politicians to be removed the decision-making process on media takeovers.

‘I was very conscious in the recent BSkyB bid that however fairly I ran the process, people were always going to question my motives,’he said.

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