Labour leadership hopefuls Yvette Cooper and Jeremy Corbyn have both backed “urgent measures” to tackle the concentration of media ownership in the UK.
Rival candidates Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall have not supported the pledge which has been circulated by campaign group the Media Reform Coalition.
The group would like to see media ownership limited to no more than 30 per cent in any sector (a limit which News UK exceeds in the Sunday and daily national newspaper print markets). Some campaigners favour a 20 per cent limit.
Frontrunner Corbyn said: “A society in which 70 per cent of UK newspaper circulation is controlled by three wealthy families [Murdoch, Rothermere and Barclay] is clearly unfair and undemocratic.
“The work being done by the Media Reform Coalition and others is vital in pushing for media plurality which this country is so desperately in need of.”
Of the Labour deputy leader candidates, Ben Bradshaw and Tom Watson have also backed the pledge.
Bradshaw said: “Media plurality is absolutely essential for a healthy democracy and it is the responsibility of Government to ensure that plurality.”
He also said that ensuring the creation of a “Leveson compliant” press regulator should be a “a priority for the Labour Party”.
Chair of the MRC professor Des Freedman said: “This is a great boost for anyone who believes in a free and diverse media. After Rupert Murdoch’s failed BSkyB bid and the phone-hacking scandal which rumbles on to this day, many progressives woke up to the fact that extremely powerful media owners are choking our democracy. The Labour party – like the Greens and the Lib Dems in fact – put their money where their mouth was before the general election with manifesto commitments for media reform.
“There are Blairites and others whose sense of principle was thrown off course by the election defeat. But after our brief survey, the views coming from the top leadership candidates suggest that media reform still ranks as a priority.”
The MRC pledge states:
If democracy is to flourish, we will need diverse and independent voices in the media. Yet media concentration in Britain remains at worrying levels and, despite what we have learned over the last few years, a handful of media corporations and individuals continue to have considerable power over our news, cultural life and access to information. There is a danger that the increasingly digital media environment could well increase this risk. We need urgent measures to prevent damaging media concentration and to encourage a more plural media at both national and local levels.
As a candidate for Deputy Leader/Leader of the Labour Party, I pledge that if elected I will take steps to promote the growth of a more pluralistic media environment, by pressing for legislation that will provide new funding for invaluable areas such as local news, investigative journalism, youth media and digital innovation, and that will temper the power of the largest media companies through the introduction of thresholds in specific media markets.