Media Powerlist: 10 things we learnt about who owns the British media

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The British media has big influences and those at the top control how our media is distributed, but who actually owns it?

Leeds Hacks analysed a list of data containing the UK’s biggest media organisations and their directors, who they are, what connections they have and how they got to the point of controlling the country’s fourth estate.

Below is a list of facts Leeds Hacks found out.

1. The country’s most influential papers have links with the Government

The Sun, The Daily Mail and The Spectator regularly endorse political parties when their is an election.

The Sun is helmed by Rupert Murdoch, who is known to be a supporter of the Conservatives and had a close relationship with Margaret Thatcher.Tessa Keswick is a former advisor to Ken Clarke is on the board of The Daily Mail and Lord Rothermere is a staunch conservative supporter.

2. The media is controlled by only a few

News Corp UK, DMGT media and Reach PLC own over 70% of the UK media. This means that the media we read, talk about and consume are influenced by three very powerful people.

The Sun has been argued to be one of the most powerful papers in the UK and has been known to influence politics and election results. This was thought during the 1992 election when The Sun published its headline, ‘It’s The Sun wot won it’ due to them heavily showing their support for the conservatives.

3. Oxbridge gives you a head start

A fifth of all big bosses who work for the biggest media organisations went to Oxbridge (Oxford or Cambridge) according to a study.

Oxbidge, is the two top universities in the UK and the biggest directors in the media studied there. It is known that going to these universities gives you a head start in the industry. However, it is not always about education but sometimes about who you know.

4. Media companies “London Bias” ostracizes rest of UK

London is the hub of the UK’s media. With a wealth of diverse talented young individuals and opportunity for worldwide investment, it holds a huge amount of opportunity for businesses.

87.5% of the media powerlist are based in London. This demonstrates a huge divide between the capital and the rest of the nation, which in turn presents an inaccurate picture of people in the country as a whole as most of the media/news produced is centered in the South East. It also demonstrates that there is little graduate opportunity for people outside of the capital and many talented individuals are leaving rural areas leaving them significantly less prosperous.

5. Only 23% of media directors are female

Out of the 33 most powerful media companies in the UK, only five of them are dominated by women. The top five biggest of these have boards consisting almost exclusively of males, except for ITV, which is the only one with a majority of women.

The UK also has one of the biggest gender pay gaps in Europe, and the median of the economy is 18% in favor of men.

6. Most media bosses have more than one media connections

Top media bosses from BBC, The Financial Times and Sky have more than one media connection linking to other media organisations.

They have worked with most media organisations in the UK and have now become major share holders with one or more organisation. This brings about the aspect of media plurality which focuses on media diversity of opinions, information  and ownership.

7. Old men still dominate top media boards

The youngest director on the board is a 37 year old male. From the research it was found in most media companies the youngest board member is a women.

It seems the media companies do not have a retirement age policy, hence one director is was able to work until the age of 90 years. There was a case with Daily Mail and General Trust plc when they had a retirement policy, but this has been abolished.

8.  The richest media company directors and their power

Many of the directors of big media companies have net worths in the billions. Rupert Murdoch’s net worth is £19.2m. Compared to the company directors, many employees of media companies are earning practically nothing. The salary gap is massive. Many of the richest media directors are connected to the most powerful media companies.

9. The magazine industry in the UK are under only four major companies.

They still hold millions of pounds of power even in the digital age. Rival magazines such as Vogue, The New Yorker, Red, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, GQ, Elle, and Vanity fair all belong to the same company.

10. Over 50% of the UK’s top newspapers are over 100 years old.

This creates a huge divide between the success of large scale news publications such as The Sun or Daily Mail, making it difficult to create a well-recognised platform for your organisation.

Attempting to break this pattern, Tortoise Media launched this week – providing ‘slow news’ to members. Believing that we are overwhelmed by information, Tortoise is aiming to close the gap between the powerful and the powerless with 5 concise daily pieces.


About the Author

This article was produced by a student or students on the BA in Journalism at Leeds Beckett University.

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