Swedish government to limit media concentration

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STOCKHOLM -- The Scandinavian media investment company Marieberg has encountered government opposition in Sweden to continuing expansion via acquisitions in that country. The government has warned the company not to press its luck by engaging in further stock purchases in Sweden's leading terrestrial or satellite-distributed commercial TV- stations.

The warning came after Marieberg, a company controlled by the Bonnier Nordic media empire, increased its interest in TV4 from 40% to 45%. TV4 is Sweden's largest and most profitable national commercial TV station.

"We are running the risk in Sweden of having too much power in the commercial TV field concentrated into a single hand, and by that I mean Marieberg and its main owners, Bonnier. In future, it would be wise if Marieberg sold off some of its TV holdings in order to avoid government intervention," says Marita Ulvskog, Sweden's culture minister.

Ulvskog compares Bonnier, run by CEO Carl-Johan Bonnier, to the Italian media empire run by Carlos Berlusconi. "Marieberg has more than enough media interests. Apart from its very large involvement in commercial radio and television, the company also controls most of Sweden's largest circulation daily newspapers, including the morning and evening papers Svenska Nyheter, Sydsvenska Dagbladet and Expressen," Ulvskog says.

Bonnier's CEO has dismissed the culture minister's complaints: "Culture minister Ulvskog's criticism is absurd and old-fashioned. There is absolutely no evidence that a concentration of control in the media is itself a bad thing. Bonnier has no interest in being able to control the content of its publications or the content of what is broadcast on our affiliate TV and radio stations," he said.

Bonnier warned that the government's threat to block Marieberg's expansion could open the door to foreign satellite TV giants.

Copyright February 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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