|Is media ownership transparent?|
|In law||YES FOR BROADCAST MEDIA ONLY|
Under the Broadcasting Act 1990 and Communications Act 2003 it is possible to find out who owns the broadcast media through information reported to media authority, the Office for Communications (Ofcom). The law does not state what information should be disclosed but leaves it to the discretion of Ofcom to request all the information it deems necessary. In practice this may include information on the size of shareholdings, beneficial owners and those with indirect interests and control if Ofcom requests such information.
These requirements do not apply to newspaper publishers unless the owners also hold a regional TV broadcasting licence in which case rules limiting cross-media ownership may apply. Online broadcasters are not typically regulated by Ofcom. Limited ownership information for print and online media can be obtained from the companies register (Companies House), under company law.
Although media may report all the information needed to identify the real owners, obtaining that information for the general public is not easy. The law does not require Ofcom to make the information it receives public and only some ownership information is available on its website. Only licence applications for competitive licence awards, such as for local TV services (L-DTPS) or commercial radio services are published on the website. They contain ownership information including sizes of shareholdings and names and contact details of shareholders in some cases.
In other instances Ofcom takes the view that they publicise the list of licensees and ownership information for those licensees can be found on the website of the companies register, Companies House, as a matter of public record. This does not however allow ownership to be fully established by the public since only public limited companies have to disclose detailed ownership information to Companies and, in any case, there is charge of £1-£2 for each record accessed which quickly becomes prohibitive if any volume of information is required.
It may be possible to obtain some ownership information under the Freedom of Information Act as Ofcom is a public body subject to such requests. In December 2014 Ofcom confirmed that it has received no such requests and that, in any case, ownership information is already in the public domain, in its view.
|Law||Media covered by law|
|Broadcasting Act 1996||Broadcast media|
|Communications Act 2003||Broadcast media|
|Communications Act 2003||Print, broadcast and online media|
Access Info full country research on transparency of media ownership: www.access-info.org/wp-content/uploads/tmo_uk_17july2013.doc
Ofcom Licensing – http://licensing.ofcom.org.uk/
Companies House (companies register): https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/companies-house