Monday, 18 October 2010

What did Murdoch ever do for the Independent?

Stephen Glover in the Independent today questions the claim that by smashing the print unions in the Wapping dispute Rupert Murdoch saved the Guardian and the Independent.

The claim was made last week by Simon Jenkins in the Guardian who suggested that without Murdoch "it is most unlikely that today there would be any Guardian or Independent".

Glover, one of the founders of the Independent, makes the point that before Wapping the Independent had struck a deal with printers outside London and the paper was later a victim of Murdoch's decision to cut the price of The Times.

He says: "One could certainly make a strong case for saying his victory over the print unions in the mid-1980s boosted all newspapers since it greatly reduced their production costs. Yet The Independent may not have been the biggest beneficiary.

"Before Mr Murdoch's Wapping lock-out in January 1986, the paper, still in the planning stage before its launch in October of that year, had an agreement with four provincial publishing companies. These printers, which did indeed produce the paper in the early years, were not cowed by the unions in the way other Fleet Street titles were. It is possible that, without Wapping, The Independent would have been printed in the provinces while enjoying a cost advantage.

"Mr Murdoch undoubtedly did one considerable disservice to this paper when he cut the cover price of The Times in September 1993. In the previous month, the sales of the two titles had been broadly similar. Thereafter the circulation of the discounted Times shot up while that of The Independent, whose owners could not afford to reduce its price, fell away. Mr Murdoch may have done much for newspapers, but The Independent has no particular reason to be grateful to him."

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