Telegraph Media Group Ltd: Acquisition - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 7:25 pm ar 1 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol 7:25, 1 Mai 2024

Yes, the cricket.

We welcome this Statement. Sometimes I am teased by my colleagues about my membership of the Puttnam committee on the Communications Act 2003, but actually the Puttnam amendment to that Act is the origin of the powers that the Secretary of State has used here. The Puttnam amendment widened the reasons for Secretary of State interventions and has been used very usefully at key times in the last 20 years. In terms of these bids for purchase of our media, it means that we are able to take in the wider public interest and we support the Secretary of State in so doing.

I am not naturally a supporter of RedBird IMI, but I have some sympathy for the question of whether it is fair to either would-be bidders or the wider public interest to be so behind the curve and reactive when such bids arise. Media ownership is becoming more interlocking and intertwined between print, broadcasting and online. In many ways, although they might not like it, print journalists are becoming almost like the hand-loom weavers in the world of fast-moving technological change—and that is before we feel the full impact of artificial intelligence on the sector.

I would like to probe the Minister. Yesterday, Sir John Whittingdale in the other place pointed out that

“it is six years since Ofcom said that there needs to be fundamental review of our media merger regime

I agree with him, and I ask the Minister whether the Government are actively considering such a review.

With the Media Bill now before this House, will the Government seek cross-party agreement on clarifying and strengthening our media ownership rules for the future? I see the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, is in her place. She has already put down an amendment to the Media Bill which could take this forward, but I think it could be done much more comprehensively at this time. If we do not do it comprehensively at this time, we will find that we have another 20 years of drift and that we are behind the game. It is essential that we have in place protection from foreign influences and state players, while, as the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, emphasised, seeing sustained plurality in both ownership and opinion in a free press—as all sides of the House want.