Labour in media move to sweeten Murdoch

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Overtures to Rupert Murdoch are expected to be made next week by Labour with a move to a more free market approach to cross-media ownership.

The Labour front-bench trade and industry team is preparing to abandon its support for a tough regulatory regime on the ownership of newspapers and television broadcasting in favour of a freer market overseen by the Monopolies & Mergers Commission with tougher powers.

The commission, under Labour, would be expected as a result to approve more investments by newspapers and broadcasting companies in cross-media ownership.

The first step will come next week in the Commons with the Second Reading of the Broadcasting Bill in which the Government is proposing to stop newspaper groups with more than 20 per cent of the national market taking over independent television companies.

Labour would prefer the threshold to be 25 per cent. Senior Labour sources said last night that this would benefit the Mirror Group, part owners of the Independent.

The change in Labour's approach to the broadcasting market is expected to please Mr Murdoch whose News International Group has the largest market share in British newspapers, owning the Times, Sunday Times, Sun and News of the World.