Notes on the Media

Britain examines media-ownership curbs

The British government launched a review of the country's media ownership laws Jan. 3 that could make it easier for newspaper owners to move into commercial television.

National Heritage Secretary Peter Brooke, the minister responsible for press and broadcasting, said rapid technological advances and far-reaching developments in the international media market made the review necessary.

In a statement, Mr. Brooke said the pace of change in Britain's laws ``would be governed by the balancing interests of the consumer and the need to maintain plurality of ownership in a competitive environment.''

Brooke, who in November made it easier for independent television companies to take over each other, hinted that the review could relax the law limiting newspaper owners to stakes of no more than 20 percent in commercial TV companies.

The rule was designed to prevent powerful newspaper proprietors from building up media empires. But it has appeared increasingly anachronistic, since there are no curbs on newspaper groups owning satellite and cable television firms. The United States has similar rules barring companies from operating broadcast stations and newspapers in the same market.

German unification silences American radio

A radio station started by the United States government in Berlin went off the air New Year's Day.

The station started broadcasting almost spontaneously during the toughest days after World War II with the call sign RIAS - for Radio in the American Sector - and became the most popular station for isolated West Berliners and millions of clandestine listeners in East Germany.

Since German unification in 1990, there has been no American sector and no legal standing for a US-backed broadcast network. At midnight New Year's Eve, RIAS became part of a new network called Deutschland Radio in an ungainly partnership with the Cologne-based Deutschlandfunk. It will be funded by the government and the remains of the one-time East German propaganda radio.

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