Foreign media groups like News Corp and AOL Time Warner could soon own UK terrestrial television stations, thanks to new legislative proposals tabled by the British government on Tuesday.

The radical proposals would lift a ban on non-European ownership of terrestrial TV, clearing the way for foreign media groups to buy commercial broadcasters ITV and Channel 5.

However, large newspaper groups like Murdoch's News Corp will not be permitted to buy a stake of more than 20% in ITV, the biggest commercial TV channel.

The legislation will also lift a ban on a single company running ITV and drop a requirement that independent television companies should have no more than a 15% audience share - firing the starting gun for ITV firms Granada and Carlton to merge.

Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Tessa Jowell presented the draft media bill to parliament, saying: "The changes we are proposing will remove barriers to investment, will encourage innovation and will allow companies to consolidate and expand."