TV Top Dogs Gather In Cambridge

The Royal Television Society Cambridge Convention always comes as a bit of a surprise, scheduled just two weeks after the Edinburgh International Television Festival. But it never fails to attract the TV industry”s heavyweights, who get to rub shoulders with their political and academic peers.

This year”s Convention was held on September 14-16 and came with the sub-title TV Everywhere, Paths To Growth; a phrase which encapsulates the current preoccupation with digital media disruption.

As you”d expect, the Convention saw some lively debate, with All3media chief executive Steve Morrison saying the BBC should reduce its commitment to in-house production and WPP CEO Martin Sorrell talking about the precariousness of the free-to-air broadcasting business model. But the star of the show was culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, the one person whose pronouncements could actually make a difference to the TV business.

Not surprisingly, the chaos surrounding the proposed takeover of BSkyB by News Corp was a big preoccupation for Hunt, who suggested that politicians could be barred from making decisions on media mergers in a new communications bill.

Explaining his thinking, he said: “I was very conscious that however fairly I ran the process, people were always going to question my motives. I tried to deal with this by publishing independent advice at every stage of the process. But in competition law, we remove politicians from the process. This ensures justice is seen to be done as well as actually being done. We should ask whether the same should apply to protect media plurality.”

Hunt also said that regulators could be allowed to launch investigations into media plurality without having to wait for a takeover bid: “Media plurality should mirror competition policy more closely, with regulators given the right to start investigations into plurality and propose remedies to protect plurality even in the absence of corporate transactions.”

No-one should hold their breath, though. Hunt”s plans, which also include proposals to tackle IP piracy, are not expect to be enacted until 2015.

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