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MPs call for investment in Midlands newspapers

A group of MPs have called on any new owner of Trinity Mirror’s Midlands newspapers to invest in them to “boost editorial quality and integrity”.

In December Trinity Mirror announced it planned to sell many of its regional titles, including the Birmingham Post and Mail and Coventry Telegraph in the Midlands, and an Early Day Motion concerning the plan has now been tabled by Stourbridge MP Lynda Waltho.

It urges any new owners to “take this golden opportunity to turn around years of neglect by successive owners” and says Trinity Mirror’s ownership was “characterised by massive cost savings”.

The Parliamentary petition has so far been signed by a further 11 MPs, including former journalist and Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell, Birmingham Yardley MP John Hemming and Birmingham Edgbaston MP Gisela Stuart.

Trinity Mirror said it planned to sell its newspapers in the Midlands – as well as in London and the South East – following a wide-ranging review of the company.

It said those titles did not offer the same opportunities for the group as others it owns, and were likely to be more attractive to other owners.

It appointed Rothschild to advise on the various disposal processes, and said these were expected to be completed during the second and third quarters of 2007, “subject to it receiving full and attractive offers for each of the businesses to be sold”.

In recent years a number of editorial posts have been made redundant at the Coventry Evening Telegraph and the Post and Mail’s offices in Birmingham in response to tough trading conditions.

The full EDM reads: “This House notes Trinity Mirror’s decision to sell-off a range of titles, including all those it publishes in the Midlands, among them the Birmingham Post, Birmingham Mail, Coventry Telegraph and Sunday Mercury; further notes that the company’s ownership was characterised by massive cost savings which leaves the titles concerned highly profitable but without a host of functions such as printing presses, archives, website and payroll necessary to allow them to operate independently of the group; expresses its fervent hope that any new owner of these proud and respected titles should commit itself to developing existing and new media platforms and investing in them to boost editorial quality and integrity; and urges any new owners to take this golden opportunity to turn around years of neglect by successive owners and to secure the future of a significant section of Midlands media and provide an ever-improving service for consumers in the region.”

Other MPs who have signed it so far are John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington), Mike Hancock (Portsmouth South), John Spellar (Warley), Lynne Jones (Birmingham Selly Oak), Ann Cryer (Keighley), David Drew (Stroud), Charlotte Atkins (Staffordshire Moorlands) and Ian Austin (Dudley North).

Trinity Mirror declined to comment.