Media mergers guidelines will ‘not be retrospective’

Minister for Communications to bring finalised guidelines to Cabinet

Minister for Communications Alex White: Guidelines will not have impact on existing media ownership, said a Government source. Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Communications Alex White: Guidelines will not have impact on existing media ownership, said a Government source. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Minister for Communications Alex White is expected to bring his finalised media mergers guidelines to Cabinet on Wednesday, with a Government source confirming they will not be retrospective.

The guidelines are expected to remain similar to the draft version published last December, when Mr White confirmed anyone holding more than 20 per cent of shares or ownership would find it more difficult to carry out mergers.

The National Union of Journalists and others had raised concerns about the levels of media ownership of businessman Denis O’Brien, but the guidelines will not have an impact on existing ownership.

“This was an issue that was raised when the draft guidelines came out. They are not going to be retrospective is the short answer. It’s unrealistic to unpick what already exists,” a Government source said.

Submissions sent to the Minister from individuals, media organisations and broadcasters as part of a recent public consultation are expected to be published, after the Department of Communications reserved the right to do so.

Information that was clearly identified as confidential or commercially sensitive will be redacted, however.

The new guidelines are expected to say it is “undesirable” for one person or business to hold excessive influence and introduce a “public value” test for future consolidation in the industry.