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Latest on RIM merger bids

Three newspaper groups have been sent “issues letters” by the Competition Commission as the next stage in the process to decide who could take over Regional Independent Media – the sixth largest regional publisher in the UK.

This routine step always takes place before the Commission makes its decisions and submits a report to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry – a move due to take place on September 27.

RIM, whose titles include the Blackpool Gazette, Lancashire Evening Post, Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Evening Post and Sheffield Star, is wanted by Gannett UK, Johnston Press and the Guardian Media Group.

Gannett already owns Newsquest and Newscom, which gives it 15 regional dailies and a host of weekly papers. Its stable includes the Northern Echo, Bradford Telegraph & Argus and the Brighton Evening Argus.

Johnston is currently the fourth largest publisher of local and regional newspapers in the UK. Its titles include the Derbyshire Times, Halifax Evening Courier, Northants Evening Telegraph, Scarborough Evening News and Peterborough Evening Telegraph.

The Guardian Media Group owns the Manchester Evening News, Reading Evening Post and a host of smaller titles within groups including Lancashire and Cheshire County Newspapers Limited and the Rochdale Observer Group.

The “issues letters” highlight all matters which have been identified for further consideration. It is made public so that all interested parties have a chance to raise any points of concern with the Competition Commission.

Among the issues the Commission intends to consider are:

  • Reasons for the proposed mergers and how they would be financed and managed;
  • Whether any merger would lead to the closure of existing titles or the launch of new ones;
  • The effect of the merger on employment and conditions of employment;
  • Whether cost-cutting arising from any merger would affect standards of training and journalism;
  • Implications for editorial independence;
  • Whether further consolidation in the regional and local newspaper industry is detrimental to the public interest – including readers and advertisers.

Full details are available on the Competition Commission website

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