A new paper from Professor Ioannis Kokkoris investigates how the media plurality test is used to ensure a diverse range of opinions, views, and information from a variety of sources in news and media.
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Certain media mergers need to be assessed in accordance with the following considerations: media plurality, broadcasting standard objectives and free expression of opinion grounds. While the statute defines these terms ambiguously, it does provide guidance to the Secretary of State, the competition authority and the courts to decide how the statute is intended to be applied consistently.
The paper, authored by Ioannis Kokkoris, Professor of Competition Law and Economics and Director of CCLS at Queen Mary University of London, analyses how the media plurality test has been applied, some of the considerations of the CMA and OFCOM, and will touch on the discretion of the decision-making stakeholders.
Media plurality is a very important facet of democracy and ensuring plurality is maintained in media transactions is essential for independence of views and trust. In Fox/Sky, the competition authority developed for the first time two different theories of harm resulting from the reduction of plurality.
It stated firstly that the first potential effect of the reduction of plurality was “that the Transaction reduce[d] the diversity of viewpoints available to and consumed by members of the public.” Secondly, the CMA considered that a potential harm as result of merger could be that the Murdoch Family Trust would have “too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda”.
The article provides an overview of the evolution of the decisional practice and clarified the current scope of the media plurality test. Media plurality grounds do not necessitate a balancing exercise which is welcome as the balancing act of competition concerns and media plurality is not a straightforward task. The institutional setting of the media plurality and the broader public interest regime provided in the Enterprise Act is not without criticisms.