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Radio chiefs in House of Lords

Radio-specific ownership rules create unnecessary barriers to industry consolidation, commercial radio representatives told peers today at the House of Lords. The appearance came as part of the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications ongoing inquiry into Media Ownership and the News.

Andrew Harrison, chief executive of RadioCentre, was joined on the panel by Mark Story, managing director, radio programming, Bauer Radio and Daniel Bruce, regional news editor, CN Radio. The peers asked them about issues such as local news provision, market consolidation, and the impact of the current ownership rules.

The evidence session followed written submissions which RadioCentre has previously made to the inquiry, arguing that radio ownership restrictions should be removed for the following reasons:

[i][b]It is unfair for radio to be singled out for mono-sector ownership rules when other media such as press and television are not subject to equivalent restrictions

Other options exist for the delivery of plurality policy objectives

Mono-media plurality rules are of decreasing importance in a multi-media, multi-platform world and therefore plurality policy should be determined on a cross-media basis

Consolidation can create genuine benefits for listeners as well as the industry[/b][/i]

Radio ownership rules are currently enshrined in legislation, but with the Government’s recently established Convergence Think Tank widely perceived to be the first step on the road towards a new Communications Act, the House of Lords Communications Select Committee’s decision to conduct this inquiry is a timely one.

Andrew Harrison said: “We welcome this opportunity ahead of new legislation to explain why the existing approach to radio ownership is outdated and counter-productive. Digital media have transformed the way in which news is produced and consumed, making mono-sector approaches to securing plurality unnecessary. In fact the current restrictions are stifling innovation in local radio news provision for listeners and holding back the economic health of our sector.”

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