Analysing The Political Economy

UK Media - “Dangerous Levels of Concentrated Ownership”

Back in 2016, the British press and media was regarded as the most “right-wing” and “biased” in Europe, according to research by YouGov. At the time, the newspapers drove considerable national anxiety over membership of the EU and heavily assisted the Leave campaign in convincing enough voters to tip the country into Brexit, which is now regarded by 60% of voters as a disaster.

Since then, things have got … worse. Not only has the imbalanced narrative from the right-wing media become more toxic, but it has now achieved ‘dangerous’ status for democracy itself.

Press Gazette reports that ‘There are “dangerous levels of concentrated ownership” in the UK media, according to a new report which seeks to answer the question ‘who owns the news?’.

The “Who Owns the UK Media?” 2023 report published by the Media Reform Coalition at Goldsmiths University found that three companies – DMG Media, News UK and Reach – control 90% of the UK’s national newspaper market.

The analysis found that while the combined average circulation of UK national dailies fell by 6% between 2020 and 2022, Metro, owned by DMG, has since the last report in March 2021 joined the Daily Mail and News UK’s The Sun as leading titles in the national newspaper market by circulation, with each accounting for around one-fifth of the share of total daily circulation.’

Press Gazette goes on to say that if DMG Media were to succeed in its expected bid to acquire Telegraph Media Group, it would increase its print market share from 42% to 47%.

DMG Media’s share of the online news market is estimated at around 10%, looking at just the top 50 UK news brands.

The same three publishers control over 40% of the audience reach of the UK’s top 50 online news brands, according to the Media Reform Coalition’s analysis of Ipsos iris data in Press Gazette’s monthly round-up.

Reach’s digital news brands accounted for more than a fifth of total online reach, which was only slightly less than the combined share of news brands in the top 50 not owned by broadcasters or major publishers.

Their dominance of print and online news, said the report, gave the three publishers “an unrivalled position for setting the news agenda”.


The top 5 publishers control over half of UK online news reach

Chivers, researcher at the Media Reform Coalition, said:

“A free, independent and plural media is essential to the functioning of a healthy democracy. However, these findings show that the UK media is dominated by a tiny handful of corporate media moguls and ‘big tech’ tycoons.”

“Across our newspapers, TV channels, radio stations and online platforms, these companies hold a dangerous level of power to dictate our national conversation and influence the political agenda to favour their own interests.”

“We need urgent reform to end the decades of failed regulation and political inaction on concentrated media ownership. Ofcom, Parliament and government must act to break up the dominant media companies, regulate the tech companies that profit off of UK audiences, and create new ownership and funding models to support independent public interest journalism.”

The top publishers also accounted for the bulk of revenue as News Corp, DMG Media and Reach together brought in almost 70% of national publishing revenue among the leading names.

Local news also highly concentrated

The report found that over 71% of the UK’s 1,189 local newspapers are also owned by just six companies with the two largest, Reach and Newsquest, each accounting for a fifth of the local press market.

Reach and Newsquest’s share was bigger than that of the combined share of titles owned by the smallest 173 local publishers.

This increasingly concentrated ownership said the report, “is worsening the collapse of media diversity and public interest journalism across the UK media”. The study pointed to “rapid consolidation of the news industry” at the local and regional levels.

Analysis by Press Gazette earlier this year found that consolidation has increased sharply in the local press in the last five years.

The report acknowledged that while ongoing local print closures have been met by new title launches, many of these new launches concern titles that were relaunched after being previously shut down or were consolidations of smaller local editions. Reach and National World said the report accounted for over half of new digital media launches, most of which were ‘hub’ websites such as Reach’s network of Live sites which serve larger areas.





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