Posted by: euromediablog | April 3, 2009

Anti-Concentration Rules – a Scapegoat in the Times of Crisis

One of the most useful instruments to secure plurality and diversity of media in Europe are the anti-concentration rules . Next to the common competition law, almost every European country has its own rules regulating mergers between big media corporations, in order to secure diversity of opinion. This model has been functioning properly for almost 20 years. Things are however about to change:

Falling advertising revenues make the competition between corporations very hard. Media companies are thus forced to look for cost-cutting measures and most of them end in stopping whole editions and dismissing journalists. In order to increase the survival chances of these companies some European governments are ready to relax the anti-concentration rules and thus allow the completion of “life-saving mergers”. This has already been the case in Spain where Telecinco is already considering an eventual merger with La Sexta, another private TV-Station. The spanish government has already annonced that it does not intend to obstruct the deal.

An identical situation is taking place in UK, where the government is momentarily  considering relaxing the ownerships for regional newspapers.  The National Union of Journalists has already expressed ist opposition and warned that the UK’s regional press will go into a “spiral of decline” if the government scraps rules restricting mergers among the large newspaper groups.

It is obvious that the media needs support in order to overcome the downfall of the advertising revenues. But is the suspension of anti-concentration rules the right measure?  After all we all know that media-mergers always involve large-scale job cuts and reduction of content. And there are also other indirect supporting options – tax cuts,  reduction of distribution costs and lower paper prices for newspapers- that can be applied, without sacrificing media pluralism.

For further Information: Guardian, NUJ and IFJ Europe

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