Global Radio’s proposed takeover of GMG radio will not be scrutinised on media plurality grounds, Secretary of Culture Maria Miller has announced.
Miller has accepted Ofcom’s recommendation that the merger should not be referred to the Competition Commission on a point of media plurality, putting the deal on a straight course for the Office of Fair Trading, which will carry out a competition-only assessment.
The case now reverts back to a competition-only assessment with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) having to decide whether to refer the case to the Competition Commission.
The OFT was also required to provide advice to the Secretary of State on the competition and jurisdictional aspects of the merger.
The OFT recommended the case should be referred to the Competition Commission on competition grounds but the decision now rests with the OFT.
Lobby groups had been pushing for the broadcasting regulatory body to consider the issue of plurality since the takeover’s announcement in June.
“We welcome the Secretary of State’s decision today,” a Global spokesperson told Music Week.
“The enhanced news service that Global intends to provide in Wales post the merger of Global & RSL, in the event of full merger clearance in Wales by the CC, is of enormous value to the people of Wales, deepening and strengthening plurality in the nation, and we are pleased that the Secretary of State, along with the Welsh Assembly, has recognised its enormous value.
“Following Global’s own request for a fast track reference to the Competition Commission, we will now proceed to the Competition Commission for that process to commence.”
In August, former Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt asked Ofcom to investigate whether the deal was in the public interest over concerns that it would give Global control of 20% of the UK radio market.
Rivals argued that the move would also mean Global would own more than 50% of total commercial radio revenues.
"On the basis of the information available to me, I have decided that under all the circumstances and, in particular the concentration of ownership which will occur in some parts of the UK, the merger may be relevant to the issue of plurality, particularly in those areas," said Hunt.