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  • Lily Meckel

UK Media: Who Owns Who?

Media ownership is increasingly becoming concentrated in the hands of few, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. A report by the Media Reform Coalition found that in 2021 90% of national newspapers in the UK were owned by only three companies.

So, what does media ownership in the UK look like? What impact does this have on media pluralism and public opinion? Here’s a summary of who owns who, and what this means for the British media landscape.

British Newspapers

What is media pluralism and why does it matter?

Media pluralism is a central principle to the functioning of a democracy. It means having multiple voices and opinions represented by different outlets. How does this relate to media ownership you might ask? Well, the more concentrated ownership is, in other words, the more outlets are owned by fewer companies, the less diversity there is in what messages are being spread and which voices are being heard. Given that the ownership of the UK’s media has become more concentrated, it poses a threat to the diversity of opinions that are represented and has the potential to create monopolies that can single-handedly sway public opinion. According to the EU’s Media Pluralism Monitor, the risk of news media concentration in the UK is very high at 70%, a trend also seen in other parts of Europe, such as Spain, Finland, and some parts of Eastern Europe.

So, who owns who?

Whilst there are still plenty of public broadcasters, which are meant to serve the public rather than commercial interests, including BBC, Channel 4, and more, a lot of media outlets are being privatised, often bought by large media conglomerates. In the last year, many corporations have taken over smaller media outlets, with no intervention from the relevant authorities. Here is an overview of the media landscape in the UK today:

National Newspapers

DMG Media: DMG Media, a subsidiary of the multinational company Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT), owns the Daily Mail, Metro, The Mail on Sunday and i News as well as their respective websites, accounting for 38.26% of weekly newspaper circulation, the most of any company.

News UK: News UK comes second in its share of weekly newspaper circulation with 32.16%. The Sun, The Times, and The Sunday Times are amongst their publications. News UK belongs to News Corp, which used to be part of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire News Corporation. This company has ventured into radio stations, and television channels as well.

Reach: Coming third with 19.42%, Reach owns the Daily and Sunday Mirror, the Sunday People, the Daily and Sunday Express and the Daily and Sunday Star newspapers, amongst others.

Local Newspapers

Newsquest: Newsquest owns 23.2%, which is around one-fifth of local newspapers in the UK, thereby leading the top three companies.

Reach Plc: Reach doesn’t only own national newspapers, it owns 20.7% of local newspapers, so also around a fifth of the market.

JPI Media: Coming third in the highest share of local titles, JPI Media has an 18.0% share, again one-fifth of the market. These top three dominate the market, accounting for a total of 61.9% of local news across the UK.

Besides these three companies, three others, Tindle Newspapers, Archant and Cliffe media have a share of around 7% of the local newspaper market, and the remaining 50 publishers together own less than one fifth, 16.3% to be exact, showing the stark contrast in ownership.

Effects of concentrated media ownership in the UK

The increasingly concentrated newspaper ownership has greatly influenced UK politics and public opinion. The monopolisation of the local newspaper industry has decreased the prevalence of public interest journalism, meaning the news is not as informative to the community as it used to be, which includes coverage of local elections. Additionally, the digitalisation of information has made it harder for smaller publishers to stay in business, forcing them to shut down or be bought out. All these issues have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Concentrated ownership has also impacted the UK’s political trajectory. Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul who owns News UK, including the most widely circulated newspaper The Sun, was accused of meddling in UK politics by consistently supporting Brexit before the referendum in the biggest publications he owns. This is an example of how fewer owners can influence opinions and outcomes.

Measures to limit media concentration

Whilst there are entities responsible for regulation, such as Ofcom, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), and the Independent Monitor on the Press (IMPRESS), there needs to be stronger and more frequent regulation of media concentration. Ensuring BBC and other public broadcasting outlets receive enough funding to compete with privatised media and setting limits to ownership shares need to be considered for a balanced media landscape. What is sure, is that action needs to be taken to limit media concentration for the preservation of a healthy and pluralistic democracy.

For more information on this topic, head over to our dedicated section on Fake News and the Role of the Media.

Edited by Evie Townend .

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