Parliament to decide whether media ownership has affected news

Parliament is to examine whether the concentration of media ownership is affecting the way journalists cover news.

An influential cross party committee of peers is inviting evidence from the media in the inquiry which is bound to re-examine the whole issue of self-regulation.

The House of Lords’ communication committee will examine what impact the concentration of media ownership has had on the balance and diversity of opinion presented in news outlets.

The committee is chared by a former Times journalist and one time home secretary Lord Fowler who said: ‘there has been an increasing concentration of ownership in the media. We want to examine if this has had an affect upon news provision. There are important public interest factor here. In a democracy it is vital to have as wide a diversity of news as possible.”

He admitted: ‘There has been very little work investigating the impact of ownership on editorial priorities such as fairness, accuracy, and impartiality. It is important to know what influence ownership has in order to make informed decisions on media regulation.”

The inquiry comes only a few weeks after Tony Blair’s parting swipe at the ‘feral beasts’of journalism and his suggestion that new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown should examine whether newspaper journalists should be brought under the same state control as broadcasters because of media convergence.

Among the issues the peers will examine will be the change in waythe news is presented, because of new technology and the way journalists are deployed.

The cross-party committee includes a former journalist and NUJ member, Lord Corbett, former defence secretary Lord King, and Lib Dem peer Baroness Bonham-Carter, a former BBC producer.

The inquiry will be in two parts, with the committee focussing on changes in the way people access news, developments in the way news is divided, and how contracted media ownership effects the balance and diversity of news. The committee will then go on the consider the concentration of media ownership, cross media ownership and the regulation framework.

The government has continually supported the newspaper industry’s right to regulate itself through the Press Complaints Commission, something which Blair questioned in his recent speech.

The committee’s report will be presented to parliament and the government will have to respond.

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