Revealed: A handful of billionaires control a staggering share of UK media

The data shows that the rise in digital media is only marginally counterbalancing the fact that the overwhelming majority of UK media is controlled by a handful of owners.

Press

Three billionaire families control nearly 70% of the national newspaper industry, the latest estimate has shown. An analysis by the Press Gazette has revealed that the Murdochs, Barclays and Rothermeres control 68% of the UK national press.

The top three companies currently control a staggering 80% of the national newspaper circulation. The ownership oligopoly of DMG Media Ltd, News UK and Reach Plc has substantially increased from their 71% share in 2015.

DMG’s publications include the Daily Mail and the i paper, while Murdoch’s News UK publishes the Sun and both the Times and Sunday Times. The Sunday Mail meanwhile is under the control of Reach, which is also behind the Daily Mirror and Daily Express.

The estimate was based on imputed values News UK, JPIMedia, City A.M. and Telegraph Media Group publications as the publishers no longer share their circulation figures.

In contrast, the field of digital media is significantly less top heavy in terms of ownership concentration. However, legacy brands still dominate over native digital new sites, making up 17 of the top 20 UK digital news publishers.

Reach Plc whose websites include the Mirror Online and a plethora of regional news providers is on top of the list with 42million unique monthly visitors in September this year. This is closely followed by the BBC with 39million, and MailOnline and Metro owner DMG Media with 39million.

While billionaire dominance is not as pronounced as in print media, the Rothermeres, Murdochs and Lebedevs still control three of the top five digital news publishers.

In the magazine industry, the Bauer, Hearst and Burda families own the three largest publishers and control an estimated 31% of circulation, based on analysis of 2019 datas. But charities also own a significant chunk of the magazine market. Titles by RSPB, National Trust and Royal Horticultural Society have a combined circulation of over 3.7 million, or 11% of total circulation.

The data shows that the rise in digital media is only marginally counterbalancing the fact that the overwhelming majority of UK media is controlled by a handful of owners.

Sophia Dourou is a freelance journalist

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