Ofcom backs local media consolidation

An era of consolidation is on the cards for local media, after the industry watchdog Ofcom proposed a relaxation of ownership rules.<br /><br />The regulator has written to the government recommending that radio operators be allowed to consolidate around a local area, helping independent commercial operators compete with the state-funded BBC.<br /><br />They would also liberalise cross-media ownership regulations to the extent that the only banned combination would be to own a local radio station, local newspapers with majority local market share, and a regional channel 3 television licence all at once.<br /><br />The changes would allow local media &ndash; such as radio stations operated by Bauer and Guardian Media, and regional newspaper groups Trinity Mirror and Daily Mail &amp; General Trust &ndash; to create economies of scale and to compete in the advertising downturn and in an increasingly internet-driven news environment.<br /><br />&ldquo;These proposals would allow local media companies more flexibility to respond to the challenges that they are facing while at the same time protecting plurality for listeners and viewers,&rdquo; said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards.<br /><br />If approved, the changes would also pave the way for conservative proposals to create a series of local media hubs, comprising of print, radio and television units.<br /><br />Ofcom has concluded a consultation period on the proposals &ndash; which were sent yesterday to culture secretary Ben Bradshaw &ndash; during which it received &ldquo;generally supportive&rdquo; responses.<br />