UK: Media Plurality

Reed Smith is releasing this client alert, as the deadline for submitted responses to the following DCMS recommendations is on 22 October – just one week away.

Executive Summary

On 30 July 2013, following recommendations from Lord Justice Leveson, the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) issued a consultation on media ownership and plurality regarding newspapers, TV, radio and online platforms. The purpose of the consultation is to "question how media plurality should be measured", identify the scope of the measurement framework, and ultimately "ensure that the media landscape isn't dominated by too few organisations". In particular, the DCMS is seeking submissions on which forms of media the measurement framework should include, which genres should be covered, which organisations and services should be included, whether the BBC should be included, and submissions regarding the audiences with which the framework should be concerned.


How to measure media plurality has long been the subject of debate, and was one of the issues considered by Lord Justice Leveson as part of the inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the press. Currently, media plurality is protected by a number of rules and restrictions. For example, the "20/20 rule" prevents a person from holding a Channel 3 or Channel 5 licence if that person runs a national newspaper with an aggregate 20% or more of the total national market share. The rule is only concerned with newspapers and does not address the use of online news sources. Similarly, the secretary of state has the authority to intervene on public interest grounds in mergers between media companies that are being considered under the Enterprise Act 2002. For example, in January 2008, the secretary of state informed Sky, following its acquisition of a 17.9% shareholding in ITV, that it would have to divest its shareholding in ITV to below 7.5%, because he considered that its larger stake would operate contrary to public interest because of its adverse effects on competition.

The Facts and Figures

The table below sets out the reach of the top news channels across all platforms.

News channel

Percentage of adults reached







BBC News Website


BBC News Channel


The Sun


BBC Radio 4


Source: Department for Culture, Media & Sport – Media Ownership and Plurality Consultation 2013

In 2002, just 15% of adults used the Internet to regularly access the news, whilst in 2012 the figure had increased nearly three-fold to 41%. There has been a corresponding decline in newspaper circulation, with ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulations) reporting in April 2012 a 7.6% fall in daily newspaper circulation, in comparison with the same month in the previous year. Users still consider television to be the most important platform for news..

The Consultation

The consultation invites views on new ways to measure plurality, and in particular, responses to the following:

  • The types of media that the measurement framework should include. The document states that the current media ownership rules "only apply to newspapers, television and radio", and that "they do not extend to other media organisations that only operate in the online sphere – such as the Huffington Post". The consultation therefore asks:

Do you agree that online should be included within the scope of any new measurement framework?

  • The genres that the framework should cover. Whilst the current focus is on news and current affairs, an approach supported by Lord Leveson, this could be expanded in order to cover a wider cultural context such as drama, light entertainment and "reality" programmes. There is also a question mark around the extent to which social media should fall within the scope of the measurement framework. In this context, the consultation asks three questions:

What type of content is relevant to media plurality?

Do you believe that scope should be limited to news and current affairs, or be widened to consider a wider cultural context?

If so, how might a wider context be defined?

  • The types of organisations and services to which the framework should apply. The consultation considers all organisations that are involved in bringing content to the public. The document contains the following table, which provides a useful overview of the types of such organisations:





Gather news independently. Retail supplier of news.

Reuters, BBC


Third-party news coordinated centrally for wider distribution.




TV, Radio – transmits messages audibly or visually, has editorial control.

Sky, Channel 4


Newspaper, website – publicly issues written information, has editorial control.

The Guardian, The Mail Online


Consolidated source of third-party content.

Google News

Search Engine

A website that allows the user to search for information available on the Internet, usually using key words.


Social Media

The means of interaction among people in virtual communities and networks.

Facebook, Twitter

Source: Department for Culture, Media & Sport – Media Ownership and Plurality Consultation 2013

Whilst the traditional model saw publishers or broadcasters of news acquiring content either in-house (retail content) or from third parties (wholesale content), the rise of the Internet has disrupted the typical supply-chain model, with aggregators, search engines, and social media becoming more prominent features in the landscape. Therefore, the consultation asks:

What sorts of organisations and services are relevant to media plurality?

Do you believe that scope should be limited to publishers or include services that affect discoverability and accessibility?

  • The inclusion of the BBC. Both Ofcom and Lord Justice Leveson have stated that any new consideration of plurality must take account of the wide consumption of BBC news. However, others note that due to the BBC's overriding requirement to be both independent and impartial, and given the numerous governmental controls placed on the BBC, it should fall outside of plurality regulations. Therefore, the consultation asks:

Do you agree that the BBC's impact on plurality should be assessed as part of a plurality review?

  • The audiences with which the framework should be concerned. The consultation suggests that "[t]o provide a complete picture of the true extent of plurality across the UK, we consider that a measurement framework will need to take into account the specific circumstances of local media. This is important in terms of ensuring lively democratic debate in our local communities". The paper argues that the amount, quality and type of information that people are able to and actively do access in local areas can differ hugely, and therefore asks:

Are there specific factors that you think a measurement framework needs to capture in order to provide a picture of plurality in local communities?

Do you agree that a measurement framework should also seek to assess the plurality of media serving other audiences or communities of interest? If so, which ones?

A full copy of the report can be found here. Comments must be submitted by 22 October 2013, and should be sent to either:
Or by post to:
DCMS Media Team
100 Parliament Street
London SW1A 2BQ

To view all of ourrecent client alerts, please click here.

This article is presented for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.