Telegraph Media Group Ltd: Acquisition - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 7:35 pm ar 1 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Shadow Spokesperson (Science, Innovation and Technology) 7:35, 1 Mai 2024

My Lords, the questions so far have focused on the intersection between this and the previous regime, which was established, as noble Lords have already said, by Lord Puttnam and his Enterprise Act—it was not exactly his; it was the House’s Enterprise Act, and it was published by a Government we were proud to be part of. That has stood the test of time, but I am afraid time is accelerating. We are now in a situation with a rather hard edge.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, whom I worked with on the amendment we eventually put through, which will also be referred to within the forthcoming digital media Bill. However, that provides an absolute block against further foreign ownership; it is not just ownership, but interests in the freedom of the press and the plurality of it. Of course, there are other issues, which under the old regime would be considered, including those looked at in detail by Ofcom and the CMA.

I want to pick up on the exchange the noble Lord, Lord McNally, quoted, between the Secretary of State and John Whittingdale. In response to his question about whether these things need to be brought forward and accelerated, she said that she was

“looking at whether online news should be included in the scope of Ofcom’s powers

I rather had the view that Ofcom had those powers. Could the noble Lord explain a little bit where he sees a gap and, if so, given what he said about timescales, whether we can look forward to the gaps being filled in? That seems to be a very important part of it, in the context of us needing to look more widely at what we want out of a free press, without reflecting government intervention and recognising that plurality is one of the main concerns. There are other bidders for the current holdings in the Daily Telegraph, one of which is a media interest. I wonder if the Minister would like to opine on that.