Media ownership rules in the UK are intended to both ensure plurality and provide freedom to companies to expand, innovate and invest. Plurality is vital in a democracy as it ensures that consumers have access to a diverse range of sources of news, information and opinion. At the same time, allowing companies to have a certain level of freedom increases competition and thus this freedom provides a basis for delivering higher quality programs, greater creativity and more risk-taking. However there is debate on the level of freedom permitted to a company.
Ralph Miliband authored the book ‘The State in Capitalist Society’ in 1973, regarding media ownership he argued that, “The rights of ownership... Confers the right of making propaganda, and where that right is exercised, it most likely to be exercised in the service of strongly conservative prejudice either by positive assertion or by the exclusion of such matters as owners may find it undesirable to punish” (Miliband:1973 ). The concern of concentrated media ownership and the effects these monopolies have on public opinion, is central to the argument regarding regulating media ownership in the UK.
The Guardian News paper regarding current media ownership rules has written that, “Media power refers to the economic, political and cultural impact of organisations that deal in information, symbols and narratives. It resides both inside the media but is increasingly an essential property of other groups who want to get their voices heard... ongoing communications review provide a real opportunity to replace one form of media power – concentrated, unaccountable, privileged – with another form that holds elites to account, offers more than a token range of "legitimate" views on urgent matters of the day and represents British society back to itself. This will require a series of reforms to ownership structures and self-regulatory practices that are clearly not currently operating in the public interest.” ( Freedman Guardian 2011).
In This essay I will be answering the following questions, ‘Why is it thought necessary to regulate media ownership? What regulations on media ownership exist in the UK and should they be revised?’ In doing so, I will refer to relevant case studies to support my argument.
C. Edwin Baker in ‘Media Concentration and Democracy’ has outlined three main reasons as to why he thinks media ownership concentration should be opposed. The first is “ a more democratic distribution of communicative power” (Baker 2006:6). Baker believes that, “The mass media, like elections, serve to mediate between the public and the government. For this reason, a country is democratic only to the extent that the media, as well as elections, are structurally egalitarian and politically salient. The best institutional interpretation of this democratic vision of the public sphere is, I suggest, an egalitarian distribution of control, most obviously meaning ownership, of the mass media” (Baker 2007:7). Baker continues to say that this equal distribution will ensure, a wide range of opportunities, for different view point, preferences and vision to be hear/seen, which he believes to be “The basic strand for democracy” (ibid).
The second he gives for opposing media ownership concentration is “democratic safeguards”(ibid). What is meant by that is, the widest possible dispersal of media ownership, will ensure that the risk of abusing communicative power will be reduced. He mentions that, “Concentrated media ownership creates the possibility of an individual decision maker exercising enormous, unequal and hence undemocratic, largely unchecked, potentially irresponsible power” (ibid:16).
The third reason suggested my Baker is “Quality and the bottom line” (ibid:28). He explains that, “ Relentless pursuit of profits and constant focus on the bottom-line restrict investment in creating the news and other cultural media content that the people want and citizens need” and...
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