Memorandum submitted by Daily Mail and
General Trust plc (DMGT)
DMGT welcomes the Communications White Paper
as a necessary prerequisite to an overdue reform of communication
and media law and is pleased to have been asked to give its views.
DMGT is a UK based, international, multiple
media group with a strong commitment to quality and editorial
Our interests, all of which are developing significant
electronic media dimensions, encompass the following:
National and regional newspapers
(UK and Europe).
Teletextpublic service broadcasting
Radio (UK, Europe and Australia).
Financial and technical information
Student recruitment and education
Wherever a DMGT business operates, it strives
to provide high quality services tailored to the communities it
serves. DMGT's management structure is decentralised, allowing
maximum independence to its operating businesses. Where relevant,
each business division will be submitting its own views to the
Department for Culture, Media & Sport.
We summarise below the key issues of concern
to the Group and attach Teletext's own submission to the Committee.
Our newspaper divisions are concerned
that proposals to regulate content on the Internet will be applied
to newspapers' Internet activities. The proposals must not undermine
existing self regulatory mechanisms. Existing law is sufficient
and no new statutory controls are needed.
Reforms to the law on newspaper mergers
and cross-media ownership are overdue and are urgently needed
to give all sectors of the communications industry an equal opportunity
Changes affecting ownership controls
must be made at the same time for all sectors of the media. Changes
to newspaper ownership laws should not be given a different priority
We support the intention to ensure
"must carry" status to public service broadcasters (including
Teletext) and to ensure due prominence in listings publications,
including electronic programme guides.
We are concerned that the BBC's privileged
position enables it to exercise unmatched market power with no
commercial risk. Its practice of providing content and promotion
free of charge distorts normal risk/reward relationships and will
inhibit development of a dynamic market.
We believe that public service broadcasters
should be required, through self-regulation, to apply the same
standards to their online as to their broadcast services. Self-regulation
should be given a chance to work.
We wish to see more broadcast spectrum
made available for digital television to allow teletext services
to offer the richness of the Internet in a more familiar, convenient
and cost effective medium.
As a multiple media owner, DMGT is particularly
concerned with the cross-media ownership laws and their application.
We therefore welcome the Government's consultative approach to
We wish to be free to respond to changes in
what consumers want and how they take it. We see no rationale
for imposing specific cross-category restrictions between newspapers,
radio and television either nationally or locally.
We need more cross-media ownership, not less,
to allow the development of multiple media groups which can better
meet the needs of the consumer and improve the availability of
the best creative content.
The need to maintain plurality can be dealt
with by a system which would treat all media consumption on a
fair and even basis so as to:
allow media owners freedom to create
more valuable services for local communities;
remove artificial and arbitrary restrictions
between media categories which are becoming less distinct as technology
rebalance the ownership rules system
to include the BBC, satellite, cable and magazine coverage and
remove the bias against terrestrial broadcasters;
take into account all media consumption
in assessing local plurality; and
conform and harmonise our rules with
the technology-neutral regulatory approach being adopted by the
Any system that is adopted should:
be transparent, fair, objective and
as non-arbitrary as possible;
be directed at the total national
or any local media market, not separate markets defined by a specific
protect the public from abuse, or
potential abuse, of monopoly power;
treat all media players equally regardless
of the method of delivery;
include the audience share of public
service broadcasters at all levels;
correct the imbalances between television
and radio rules; and
allow ownership of different types
of media addressing the same markets, subject only to an overriding
limit of all media within those markets (share of voice).
Our proposed media impressions system described
in a paper submitted to the Select Committee in March 1998 would
meet all the criteria above and cure many of the imbalances and
difficulties in the current regime by:
taking proper account of all media
consumption in a market, including the BBC; and
deciding issues of local media ownership
in the context of all media consumed in the locality.
Sustainable diversity can best be achieved in
a relaxed ownership regime through the licensing process.
To give flexibility to the system, if a media
owner reached the overriding limit of all media in a market, a
public interest test should determine whether exceeding that threshold
was contrary to the public policy objectives of plurality and
The current system set out in the 1996 Act was
intended by the then Government to be a "staging post".
It has been rapidly overtaken by market developments. We think
the time is now right to put in place a system that can evolve
with the markets. A media impression based system will do just