Thursday 25 June 2009

Print Week: Regional newspaper publishers can 'test the water' on mergers says OFT

PrintWeek is claiming that the Office of Fair Trading has said it is up to regional newspaper publishers to test the water for merger proposals, following the publication of the Digital Britain report last week.
It says that the OFT announced only minor changes to the 2003 legislation to give Ofcom a more extensive role in deciding if mergers should go ahead.
PrintWeek's Adam Hooker notes: "It was widely reported that publishers were disappointed with the outcome of the report, having lobbied for more leniency in newspaper mergers due to increased competition from other media, specifically the challenge from the internet.
"However, PrintWeek understands that the publishers' fears were appeased at a clarification meeting following publication of the report.
"OFT said the term ‘merger' could be applied to both small-scale moves, such as the combining of two publications, as well as more significant events, such as the merging of two publishers."
Print Week quotes OFT's director of mergers Alastair Mordaunt saying: "There would be nothing to stop two major publishers merging if it was accepted at a national and regional level.
"There is an element of ‘bring it on' to this. We will have to wait and see if there will be any mergers are proposed now that this situation has been clarified."
Print Week adds:"Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey appeared to endorse the OFT's position, stating that Ofcom's review of proposed mergers 'could be a clever answer to a difficult problem' ".
Story tip via Tom McGowran


Paul Linford said...

This was certainly how we interpreted it at the time Jon.

Publishers challenged to come up with merger plan.

Jon Slattery said...

You are quite right Paul,
HTFP did see it as a challenge to regional publishers to come up with merger plans rather than a snub after all that lobbying by the big groups for a relaxing of the merger regime.
All the same, PrintWeek's report of a 'clarification meeting' and the OFT quotes are interesting.
Do you buy the speculation that we will be left with Northcliffe and a combined Trinity-Johnston dominating regional publishing?