Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Do you have to be 'fit and proper' to own a paper?

All sorts of bonkers people and criminals have owned newspapers in the UK without MPs deciding they were not "fit and proper".

No-one stopped Robert Maxwell taking over the Mirror, former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev acquiring the Evening Standard and the Independent, Conrad Black buying the Telegraph or Richard Desmond taking over the Express.

The only one I can remember being blocked was David Sullivan (top), the LSE educated pornography publisher, who launched the Sunday Sport and Daily Sport and was prevented in 1990 from taking a majority stake in the Bristol Evening Post and its sister title, the Western Daily Press.

The Monopolies and Mergers Commission (Competition Commission) ruled that Sullivan's acquisition of the Bristol newspapers would not be in the public interest. Interestingly, it was not his porn background that prevented the deal going head so much as a disastrous link up with the Daily Star and Express Newspapers.

The Commission ruled: "The evidence from Mr Sullivan's previous involvement with the Daily Star suggests that his proposed acquisition could well impair the ability of BEP newspapers to hold readers and advertisers and thus their profitability."

You can read the Commission's ruling online.

In the UK anyone can launch a newspaper without permission from the state. I once interviewed someone who launched a newspaper that you could also wear as a hat - it failed but no-one stopped them trying.

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