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Sly Bailey reiterates call for merger rules reform

Sly Bailey has reiterated her call for a relaxation of merger rules and said publishers must not ask for support from the public purse.

The Trinity Mirror chief executive told today’s Digital Britain Summit, in London, she believed there were grounds for further regional newspaper consolidation.

The summit is being held at the British Library and features speakers such as Gordon Brown and Stephen Fry on a whole host of digital media issues facing the nation.

Ms Bailey told the summit: “Let me be clear, we’re not asking for state support. All we’re asking for is a 21st century merger regime to suit a 21st century media.

“We believe there are grounds for further regional newspaper consolidation. The old narrow definitions of print markets and concern about our dominant positions simply don’t apply.

“We have a myriad of new, able, well-funded digital competitors and if we’re going to compete effectively with them, then we need more scale.

“Allowing regional newspaper publishers to merge and consolidate is the only way we will be able to face these threats head on and to limit the damage of the recession to our industry.

“If the pressures of this recession put local newspapers out of business then think very hard about what we’ll be left with…..the death of journalism as we know it.

“We’re calling for change because the rules are inappropriate and out of date and they have been for some time. We have a regime that was fit for purpose in 1989 but it’s not fit for 2009.

“If newspapers are to survive the digital age and flourish in Digital Britain a level playing field is required.”

In January, Lord Carter published his interim Digital Britain report in which he promised to hold today’s summit ahead of the final version due out in the summer.

At the time, Ms Bailey said the interim report showed a “crushing lack of understanding” of the pressures facing the newspaper industry.

In today’s speech, she went on to criticise council newspapers and discussed maximising local newspapers’ position in the community for the benefit of business.

She said: “Regional publishers are also faced with the issue of local authorities launching newspapers and websites of their own which are funded by public money and are published in direct competition with our papers and websites.

“It goes without saying that, aside from any arguments about the threat to democracy that councils masquerading as newspapers pose, they have the potential to seriously de-stabilise existing commercial local media businesses.”

She added: “The biggest problem for the newspaper industry right now, as for the entire media industry, is advertising or rather the lack of it.

“We are the biggest generators of local content but we compete for ad revenue with new competitors who don’t generate any content.

“Our challenge is to provide advertisers with greater scale across local markets so that we can compete with these new national players.”


BarryJesus (17/04/2009 16:21:09)
If the Govt is going to relax these rules, it must come with guarantees levels of investment in journalism. Otherwise the corporates will simply gobble up other media outlets and make even more ‘efficiencies’, leading to even fewer journalists than there are now.
It’s a sad state of affairs but the Govt appears to be falling for everything the owners are telling them.
I have little faith in NUJ making themselves heard – from what I’ve seen they’re over-reaching with a long wishlist.
It’s easier to bat away a huge list than it is one with a few key and sensible suggestions.