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Give Ofcom media role - peers

Communications watchdog Ofcom should have the final say on issues of media ownership rather than the culture secretary , according to a committee of peers.

The House of Lords Communications Committee said the watchdog should also carry out regular reviews of the media landscape that would "set the context" for any future decisions.

It comes after the former secretary of state, Jeremy Hunt, faced criticism for his handling of the p roposed purchase of BSkyB by News Corp.

The bid was withdrawn in July 2011 just over a year after it was first made public, but not before Mr Hunt's special adviser Adam Smith had to resign after revelations over his close relationship with News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel.

Committee chairman Lord Inglewood said the bid had put the issue "under the policy spotlight".

But he said that despite " a wide range of different ideas" being put forward, " nothing firm has emerged".

He said the regular reviews, carried out on what he called " a predictable periodic basis", should "set the context" for any decisions.

He added that the secretary of state should provide " clear guidance and clarity to media enterprises about the prospects for consolidation", but Ofcom should then take over.

He said: " Mindful of its twin statutory duties to further the citizen and the consumer interest, the Ofcom board should have the final say about whether specific media transactions can go ahead, balancing the assessments made of a transaction's likely impact on competition and the consumer on the one hand with its impact on plurality and the citizen on the other."

The committee heard evidence from witnesses including broadcasters, internet firms including Google and academic experts.


From Belfast Telegraph