Voters say no to foreign state ownership of UK media

Tomorrow the House of Lords will consider an amendment to the Digital Markets Bill which would give parliament a veto over foreign states owning UK media outlets. The debate is prompted by the bid for the Telegraph and Spectator from Redbird IMI, an investment fund which is 75% owned by Sheikh Mansour, vice president and deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates.

Baroness Stowell, who has brought the Lords amendment, says she has support from Lib Dem and crossbench peers, as well as Conservative colleagues. In the Commons, Robert Jenrick’s letter in support of the Stowell plan has been signed by more than 100 MPs in five parties.

Reports scrutinising the proposed deal from Ofcom and the competition authorities were due to be delivered to Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer last night. As she considers the findings and the Lords prepare for the debate, they might want to consider the views of the voters.



In a poll conducted over the weekend, I found only 5% of all voters saying there was no problem with foreign governments directly or indirectly owning UK media outlets. A further 14% said there was no problem with ownership by foreign governments as long as they do not influence what the outlets publish or broadcast.

But a clear majority were not satisfied even with that caveat. Two thirds (66%) agreed that foreign governments should not be allowed to own UK media outlets, directly or indirectly.

Opposition to foreign state ownership of UK cuts across party affiliation. 2019 Conservative voters were more likely to think this than voters as a whole (76% opposed foreign government ownership), but two thirds of Labour and Lib Dem voters also agreed – as did 84% of those currently leaning towards Reform UK and 77% of those backing the SNP.

Whatever their political colours, people’s view of the issue looks clear. We will await the verdict of the Lords and the Secretary of State with interest.

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