Who Owns the UK Media?

March 16, 2021

A new study published by the Media Reform Coalition, in cooperation with the Center for Media, Data and Society (CMDS), shows that ownership concentration is an endemic problem in the country's media landscape, which in some sectors is becoming worse.  The report analyses the print, online and audiovisual media, but also looks at the role and power of platforms and intermediaries in shaping the market. 

The data collected for the report shows that:

  • Just three companies dominate 90% of the national newspaper market, up from 83% in 2019. 
  • The three largest local publishers each control a fifth of local press market, more than the share of the smallest 50 local publishers combined.
  • Facebook controls three of the top five social media services used to access online news in the UK. Traditional news organizations account for 48% of Facebook users’ news sources.
  • Two companies own 70% of the UK’s 279 local commercial analogue radio stations—a 20% increase in concentration since 2018. 

The concentration of ownership and media power is as obvious locally as it is at a national level. "The Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the long-term decline in both circulation and advertising revenues in the local press industry. Job cuts and closures are now commonplace and since 2005 publishers have closed as many as 295 local newspapers—shrinking the UK’s local press by a fifth.", write Thomas Chivers, author and researcher for the Uncovering Media Influence in the UK project. However, the largest local publishers have not suffered as much as those serving smaller communities, leading to a growth in the scale of "news deserts" in the UK. 

The report concludes that the levels of concentration existing in the UK media landscape did not happen naturally. The need for action to challenge big media owners and tech companies should challenge their influence that flows from their dominance of infrastructure, content, and distribution.