Cruickshank warns that UK media industry could vanish within years

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Don Cruickshank, chairman of SMG, the number three player in ITV, has warned that the Government's delay in loosening cross-media ownership restrictions could result most UK commercial media ending up in foreign hands within five years.

His views, contained in a speech to the Institute on Public Policy Research earlier this week, came to light just days after Charles Allen, chairman of Granada, warned in a leaked letter to the Prime Minister that his company was at risk of a hostile foreign takeover. Mr Cruickshank's remarks will increase the pressure on the Government to speed changes to permit stronger media combines.

In the speech, Mr Cruickshank said: "There must be a chance that by the end of this Parliament there will be no UK-owned, UK-governed significant media group in the UK except, of course, for the BBC. And the reasons? The accelerating adverse impact of cross-media ownership rules; the less than benign influence of the BBC on media markets; and the rapidly declining viability of single media companies."

Mr Cruickshank, who is also chairman of the Stock Exchange and a former senior executive with Pearson and Rupert Murdoch's News International, said the difficulties faced by ONdigital, the fledgling digital terrestrial platform co-owned by Carlton and Granada, reflected the problems faced by UK media groups. "Granada and Carlton together don't have the scale simultaneously to build infrastructure, invest in content and take large commercial risks," he said. "They are further handicapped by being unable to serve advertisers well across different media. They are being crucified and are very vulnerable."