Leading Article: Use This Merger to Look Again at TV Regulation
WHATEVER ELSE, the pounds 8.2bn merger between Carlton and United News and Media, announced yesterday, should finally bring down the ramshackle edifice of regulation that covers take-overs in the media.
That regulation is needed, none should doubt. With predators such as Rupert Murdoch prowling around, a free-for-all could only result in poorer standards and higher charges to the consumer. The trouble with the present system of British regulation, however, is that it is still based in the past world of terrestrial television and franchise monopolies. Meanwhile the power of referring mergers and acquisitions to an inquiry remains in the hands of government ministers, who are - as we have seen in the recent cable TV reference - all too subject to political pressure.
This makes no sense in a world of multiple means of TV transmission and almost infinite potential channels and global competition. In the larger world, the fate of a couple of relatively minor media-players with British franchises is hardly cause for a raised eyebrow, never mind a full inquiry. Even United's ownership of The Express, which would once have been the centre of all the regulatory attention, has barely rated more than a footnote in the comment. …