20 September 2014

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‘No plans to close freesheet’ says regional publisher

A regional publisher has hit back at union criticism by insisting it will not close down a weekly freesheet.

Last week, the Office of Fair Trading cleared Northcliffe Media’s bid to buy Nottingham independent free weekly the Topper.

The decision followed a lengthy investigation into whether the deal would breach competition rules as Northcliffe also owns the rival Nottingham Post.

The Topper is now the only free weekly distributed in Nottingham following Northcliffe’s closure of the Nottingham Recorder last June – shortly before it entered into talks to buy the Topper.

The National Union of Journalists had raised concerns that Northcliffe would now close down the Topper, but this was explicitly denied in a statement today from Nottingham publisher Steve Hollingsworth.

Said Steve:  “We have no plans to close the Topper, our priority is to make it into a sustainable business.”

Earlier NUJ Northern Organiser Chris Morley said he feared the title would be closed down.

He said: “This is not good news for the staff nor the local community. This is a sizable population and it is not getting the plurality of media that it needs or deserves. We need to hear Northcliffe give assurances that it will be investing in, and not cutting, this important title.”

Diana Peasey, chair of the Nottingham NUJ branch, added: “I’m disappointed with the decision. We are concerned that this has all taken place with the closure of the Nottingham Recorder in the run up to the takeover bid for the Topper – both of which are weeklies. Meanwhile the Nottingham Post is considering yet more redundancies. So much for the protection of quality.”

In allowing the takeover, the OFT concluded that while the merger would lead to a “high combined share of supply of local newspapers and local paper advertising space in Nottingham,” other competitive restraints would protect consumers from price increases.

9 Comments

  1. Mike Hack, Nottingham

    As I have said on my @anmedianews twitter feed I will give it 3-6 months before the sharks at London close it. The likelihood is that this decision has already been made. Associated don’t understand regional newspapers but they now control them. They intend to stifle all regional competition whilst at the same time decimating Northcliffe with a healthy dose of management incompetence and lack of knowledge.

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  2. janet

    I just hope they leave this great paper alone and keep it as it is
    Please dont let them spoil it They dont understand free papers

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  3. Bill B

    The OFT have handed another victory to the corporate giants with a decision that defies logic and common sense. Healthy competition between rival newspapers is good for business, advertisers and readers. Many people relied on The Topper for local news and advertising. It’s a great shame.

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  4. Mike Hack, @ANMedianews

    Janet said “They dont understand free papers”. It goes further than that….they don’t understand regional papers. They have sacked, downgraded or driven out all the expertise that Northcliffe had. All that are left are Associated self servers, Northcliffe incompetent “Yes” men and a few…..a very few….genuine regional newspaper people who have given up and are taking the cash before it’s their turn for the chop.

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  5. Milli Tant

    Ah, that great toothless old lion the NUJ rears it’s head and bites?
    No.
    Just criticises.
    About at useful as a chocolate teapot.

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  6. GladImOutOfIt

    “We have no plans to…” ALWAYS means they will do it, but not until the fuss has died down and everyone’s attention has moved on. Governments have used it for years. It really means “we haven’t actually drawn up our plans to close it yet because we’ve been too busy sorting out the OFT and buying it” If they’d said “we will definitely not close the Topper” I might have been more inclined to believe them, but even so…
    Milli Tant: what’s the local NUJ supposed to do about it except criticise? Industrial action would be illegal at this point. People who knock the NUJ like this usually turn out to be the very people who fought tooth & nail in the old days to avoid joining it and backing it, thus rendering it toothless!

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  7. Aman

    They wont close it. Closing it creates a hole that someone else could fill.

    What they might do is use staff and content from the paid-for. You can run a free paper for next to nothing if you’ve got a bigger paper in the same town/city.

    Shame the NUJ went in all guns blazing again though. It achieves nothing and makes them easy to ignore as militant, but powerless, troublemakers.

    How about trying some diplomacy?
    Approaching the company and asking for reassurances rather than just slagging them off before anything has been decided.

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  8. Smithy

    From the OFT’s own website: ‘The OFT’s mission is to make markets work well for consumers. Markets work well when businesses are in open, fair and vigorous competition with each other for the consumer’s custom. Our job is to make sure that consumers have as much choice as possible across all the different sectors of the marketplace. When consumers have choice they have genuine and enduring power.’ Mmm…

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  9. Last one out - switch off the light

    Steve H said ” Our priority is to make into a sustainable business”
    If it was not why the hell did they buy it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    By the way I agree that the vast majority of the talent has left NM but Steve Holly is one of the few strong operators to still be in there – a top bloke and I don’t say that often.

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