UK outlines plan to ban foreign states from owning newspapers


London: The UK government outlined a prevention plan on Wednesday foreign state Owning the newspapers would potentially give ministers the power to block a bid by Abu Dhabi-backed Redbird IMI to buy the Telegraph.
Battle on one of Britain's most famous newspapers has raised questions about the independence of the media and the role of foreign investors who acquire ownership politically influential property,
The Telegraph has close ties to Britain's ruling Conservative Party and the political struggle for ownership of the 168-year-old newspaper is as much about power and influence as it is about money.
Stephen Parkinson, the culture minister in the House of Lords, said the government would seek changes to the law through Parliament to prevent foreign states from owning British newspapers.
“We will explicitly amend the media merger regime to disallow newspaper and periodical news magazine mergers involving the ownership, influence or control of foreign states,” Parkinson told the Lords.
A government official said the proposed changes to the law would actually block the Telegraph takeover bid by Redbird IMI. The group also planned to buy the Spectator news magazine.
Redbird IMI, run by former CNN boss Jeff Zucker and with most of its funding from Abu Dhabi, said it was extremely disappointed and would now evaluate its next steps.
The deal is already subject to a separate investigation based on existing laws, but the new plan is more explicitly aimed at preventing foreign state control.
The right-leaning Daily Telegraph has been nicknamed the “Torygraph” due to long time support For the Conservative – or Tory – party. Former Conservative Prime Ministers such as Winston Churchill and Boris Johnson have written for it.
The competition for ownership of Telegraph is being played against the backdrop of an unpopular Conservative Party led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who according to polls is likely to lose the next election later this year.
Pressure was building on the government after Tina Stowell, the former Conservative leader in the Lords, proposed amendments to the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill, which would give Parliament the power to veto foreign governments over British media organisations.
His amendment was supported by more than 100 members of parliament who cited concerns including the possibility of editorial interference and censorship.
After forcing the government to come up with his own plan, Stowell withdrew his amendment.
The new restrictions on foreign control are expected to be voted on in the House of Lords in the next few weeks. It must be passed there and in the lower House of Commons before the new rules come into effect.
Parkinson said the new measures would create a new obligation for the government to refer any relevant media merger to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) watchdog.
If the CMA determined that the merger “has resulted in, or will result in, foreign state ownership, influence or control over the newspaper enterprise”, the government would be legally required to order the merger blocked or terminated.

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