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Telegraph Takeover: UK to Ban Foreign State Ownership of Newspapers

The UK government has announced plans to ban foreign governments from owning UK newspapers and news magazines. This follows criticism of a proposed takeover of the Daily Telegraph and Spectator publications by an investment firm backed by the United Arab Emirates, RedBird IMI.

In a statement, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said the new law would “rule out newspaper and periodical news magazine mergers involving ownership, influence or control by foreign states”. He confirmed the legislation would be introduced as an amendment to the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, which is due for its third reading in Parliament next week.

The proposed change aims to “deliver additional protections for a free press”, according to a government spokesperson. It comes amid cross-party pressure on the government to act on the RedBird IMI deal, with peers threatening to defeat ministers in a House of Lords vote this week unless urgent steps were taken.

RedBird IMI is 75% owned by Sheikh Mansour, deputy prime minister and vice president of the UAE. He is best known in the UK for transforming Manchester City Football Club. The new law could potentially impact RedBird IMI’s bid for the Telegraph Media Group if enacted swiftly, Lord Parkinson suggested.

However, the BBC’s Business Editor has reported that sources close to the matter believe the takeover attempt now looks likely to fail due to growing political opposition. A RedBird IMI spokesperson said the firm remains committed to investing in global media, but will now need to evaluate its next steps.

Labour has signalled its support for the change. Former Telegraph editor Lord Moore said there should have been “such a rule from the start” to provide clarity on takeover bids. Cross-party calls were led by Baroness Stowell, chair of the Communications and Digital Committee, who warned foreign ownership could further damage public trust in UK institutions.

The government intervention means the UAE bid for the Telegraph and Spectator “now looks dead in the water”, according to chairman Andrew Neil. RedBird IMI insisted its plans had been “a fully commercial undertaking” but acknowledged it will need to reconsider in light of the new policy direction.

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