Enders & Goodall specifically suggest a 15% market share (of all media, not just a single sector whether TV or press) should the maximum permitted; any company which rises above this should be forced to sell off media assets until they fall below 15% again. As we'll see, OfCom have in the past forced News Corp to sell shares in ITV companies as this went against the fundamental principle of pluralism.
Article link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/30/cap-media-ownership-lessons-leveson
News Corp case shows a cap on media ownership is the way forwardThe lessons from the Leveson inquiry are clear: the hold on our media of proprietors like Murdoch must be restricted
In the past few days an impressive political unanimity has been developing behind the view that Britain needs to reintroduce clear limits on media ownership and define what plurality means. The UK dismantled most of the specific rules governing who can own media companies in 2003, and in all but a few cases the competition authorities were left with complete autonomy.
Indeed, only a last-minute amendment to the Communications Act allowed governments to intervene to protect plurality. Without that protection, the full takeover of BSkyB would have proceeded with no check whatsoever, even though it enlarged the scale and scope of News Corporation, already the largest media company in the UK and, indeed, the world.
The concept of plurality remains entirely undefined in law. To date Ofcom and other bodies have largely assumed that plurality is entirely about the media providing a wide range of news and opinion to citizens. In the UK, News Corp controls over 35% of newspaper circulation and most news on commercial radio and BSkyB, and has significant financial muscle. An increase in this scale and scope could have detrimental effects on all News Corp's competitors, and thereby on British democracy.
But the UK should not only impose clear restrictions on the maximum share of news provision held by one proprietor. (This should be in addition to conventional competition rules that stop one business monopolising single markets of newspapers, books or TV). Steps should also to be taken to ensure that no one company can exert the level of economic control over the entire media sector that would have been possessed by the combination of BSkyB and News Corp's other UK businesses, including a large publisher and a major film studio.
Media companies such as News Corp are the funnel through which almost all forms of entertainment or news must go. he BSkyB takeover would have made the merged company a gatekeeper of unparalleled influence. This would be at a time when its relative ability to decide what gets through the media bottleneck, and at what price to the citizen, is growing sharply as the BBC's income is reduced and other media face revenue erosion.
UK media businesses, including computer games and book publishers as well as TV, radio and press, have revenues of about £32bn a year. The enlarged News Corp would have had about 20% of this total, roughly twice as much as the BBC, its nearest rival. The simplest way to ensure plurality in the UK would be a clear limit on the share of all media revenues held by one company – 15% seems reasonable, but an open debate is needed. Jeremy Hunt, the beleaguered culture secretary, has himself argued that with the convergence of digital media, we should cease looking at plurality in a single market but look across the whole landscape, from newspapers to social media.
Three principal criticisms can be made of our proposal for a 15% cap. First, this is just an arbitrary figure. But it has the virtue of clarity, simplicity and enforceability, since regulators, judges and media companies have heretofore all struggled with measuring plurality. This proposal simply requires Ofcom to measure the size of the media market each year and demand that any company over the 15% mark sells part of its business.
Second, the cap penalises success. This is true; but unfettered freedom to grow is not compatible with protection of plurality. Unchallenged, a growing share of the eroding newspaper market, dominance in pay TV and economic power would result in News Corp gradually increasing its control over UK media in aggregate. And the risk is that plurality would inevitably erode.
Third, the proposal is unnecessary since News Corp can never revive its bid for BSkyB. However there is currently nothing to stop News Corp relaunching its bid tomorrow. The 2010 approval from the competition authorities is still valid, and uncertainty over the definition of plurality may well mean that an inquiry by the Competition Commission would allow the proposal to proceed. (Indeed, it is an extraordinary irony of the last week's events that had News Corp, Jeremy Hunt and Ofcom all agreed on a CC reference, the takeover could well have proceeded and been entirely defensible, despite the phone hacking allegations).
A 15% cap would also protect the UK from other threats to plurality in the future; who knows what the future will hold when huge global companies such as News Corp, Google, Apple and Amazon battle for revenue in small local markets such as the UK? We want to have this debate now, while the issue is at the forefront of everyone's minds.