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Media Power and Plurality: from hyperlocals to high-level policy

The conference explored UK policy on media ownership and diversity
by Sophie

nullAcademics, policy makers and media professionals gathered at City University London on 2 May to debate the future of the media landscape in the United Kingdom. In the wake of recommendations from the Leveson Inquiry and from the House of Lords Communications Committee, the conference explored UK policy on media ownership and diversity.

The conference was organised by the University of Westminster's AHRC-funded Media Power and Plurality research project and hosted by the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism at City University London.

Issues explored included how legislation can prevent the undue concentration of media power; the interventions necessary to help new players flourish; and how policy approaches should differ at national, regional and local level. There was also discussion about possible manifesto commitments on the subject in the forthcoming general election.

Baroness Onora O'Neill, a leading philosopher and crossbench member of the House of Lords gave the keynote speech. Her influential Reith Lectures in 2002 shaped thinking on media trust and ethics.

She explained that while the control of diversity through regulation could prove incompatible with rights to media freedom, "some sorts of plurality requirement are no threat to media or individual freedom of expression".

"Plurality is therefore an attractive surrogate for diversity because it does not dictate content, yet seems likely to secure some or quite a lot of diversity," she said. It is not, however, a guarantee of diversity and could lead to repetitive and bland content.

"What matters is to work out which sorts of plurality are likely to have which sorts of effects in actual circumstances," she suggested. Finally, she drew attention to the interests of owners, an aspect of plurality which, in her view, has been overlooked.

Panels looked at UK and European policy, options for local and hyperlocal initiatives, and the potential for "charitable journalism".

A dedicated conference page, with speaker and programme details, a delegate list, tweets from the event and relevant blog posts from some of the speakers is available on the Media Plurality website.

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