TV chief calls for more liberal ownership rules

MICHAEL GREEN, chairman of Carlton Communications, the country's most powerful television company, yesterday called on the Government to introduce a major liberalisation of the current cross-media ownership rules, to allow Carlton and other groups to compete more fairly with Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Sky satellite channel and News International.

He said he could see no good reason why a television company such as Carlton should be restricted from buying stakes in newspapers. The Government is reviewing media ownership rules, examining such barriers to concentration, accepting that changes are essential if British companies are to become major international forces.

Mr Green, whose company owns Carlton TV, Central and a stake in GMTV, made his plea when giving the annual Fleming Memorial lecture, organised by the Royal Television Society, at the Royal Institution in London.

A man who eschews personal publicity, to a point where the lack of a public presence has started to damage his media ambitions, Mr Green said he recognised that 'the industry has a right to have a look and a listen, and perhaps to prod me through the bars of my cage'.

'I have no quarrel with the influence News International has achieved not only in this country but in other regions of the world. My complaint . . . is simply that successive British governments conceded News International a scale of influence and reach which they have consistently denied to anyone else. Changes in broadcasting regulation in Britain continue to move much more slowly than technology, much more slowly than the growth of media empires elsewhere in the world.'

He said it was not realistic to suppose that any government is going to compel News International to divest of any existing newspaper or satellite interests.

' I welcome the notion that newspaper companies, such as Associated newspapers or United Newspapers, the Telegraph or the Mirror should be able to buy into our business. I see no reason why we should not be able to buy into theirs.'

Mr Green said there were obvious opportunities for talented people, 'with understanding of mass communications, to work together'.

He said the present system of regulating the media encouraged an international view of ITV as a cottage industry, as insignificant as charming little thatched cottages in a world dominated by skyscrapers.