Kent newspaper publisher the KM Group has confirmed it is seeking voluntary redundancies in the wake of its failed bid to buy seven rival Northcliffe-owned titles.
The family-owned group wanted to buy Northcliffe’s Kent Regional News and Media subsidiary but pulled out last month after the deal was referred to a full Competition Commission inquiry.
Now it is understood to be seeking up to ten job losses across its local titles, which include the Kent Messenger.
However the group has also acknowledged that a programme of redundancies would have happened anyway, even if the deal had been successful.
Editorial director Ian Carter said: “The KM Group can confirm that it is embarking on a voluntary redundancy programme. This follows our unsuccessful bid to acquire Kent Regional News and Media.
“We remain very disappointed in the OFT’s decision to refer the deal to the Competition Commission. As we had made clear from the outset, the costs involved meant we had no choice but to withdraw from the process as a result.
“We strongly believe this deal would have been in the best interests of staff, readers and advertisers.
“Clearly there would have been some duplication of work, and it would have been necessary to restructure the combined businesses. This would have involved a voluntary redundancy scheme, although we would also have brought a number of jobs back to the county.
“Although the deal was blocked, we have decided to go ahead with the voluntary redundancy programme. Conditions in the market remain challenging, and we need to review our cost base in the light of this.
“However, we will retain a market-leading portfolio of newspapers, websites and radio stations and will continue to develop our multimedia strategy going forward.”
KM Group chairman Geraldine Allison, who is also president of the Newspaper Society, was asked about the OFT decision this week in a hearing before a House of Lords committee looking into the future of investigative journalism.
She said the NS had discussed the matter with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and was also due to speak with the Office of Fair Trading, but added: “Nobody can do anything about it. The decision had been made.”
Ms Allinson also said the decision might hamper other potential initiatives by the group, such as local TV.
“Local TV would be the next natural step for us, but when we have decisions like the one the OFT has made, it makes it hugely difficult for us to go forward with ideas like local TV because we believe we’re being held back in other areas,” she told peers.
Maidstone and Tonbridge in Kent were both identified earlier this year among 65 towns and cities which could host new ultra-local TV stations.
The KM Group already has interests in the broadcast media with several radio stations and its kentonline.co.uk website which runs TV-style bulletins.
Ms Allinson told the committee: “We still don’t know all the facts about it and it’s difficult at the moment to see that it’s going to produce a significant enough audience to generate advertising revenue enough to cover the costs of doing it.”
But she added: “If anyone is going to launch local TV in Kent I hope it would be us, because we already have the journalists, we should be able to do it better than anyone else.”