The UK’s competition watchdog has taken steps to investigate the media plurality implications of Trinity Mirror’s buyout of Richard Desmond’s Express and Star newspapers.
Following completion of the £127m takeover deal yesterday, Trinity Mirror, which is already the UK’s largest regional news publisher, now owns three daily national newspaper titles and four Sunday titles.
These include the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Daily Star, Sunday Mirror, Sunday People, Sunday Express and Daily Star on Sunday.
By comparison, Rupert Murdoch’s News UK owns two daily titles – The Times and The Sun – and two Sunday’s – The Sun on Sunday and The Sunday Times.
But, Trinity Mirror also owns as many as 25 major regional dailies across the UK with a combined circulation of more than 400,000 – including the Manchester Evening News, Liverpool Echo and Hull Daily Mail.
The Competition and Marketing Authority has issued an initial enforcement order, also known as a “hold separate” order, under the Enterprise Act 2002 to prevent the two businesses integrating until an investigation is complete.
Trinity Mirror said the CMA has launched a merger investigation, however the enforcement order does not formally mark the beginning of an investigation and the CMA would not confirm that one had begun.
A statement released by Trinity Mirror today said: “The board continues to believe that there will be no reduction in media plurality as a result of the acquisition, as each newspaper brand will continue with its current editorial positioning, and that there will not be any detrimental impact on competition as a result of the acquisition.”
If the competition watchdog does decide to launch an investigation, it would have 40 working days to carry it out and make a ruling on whether the merger poses a competition problem.
Trinity Mirror said a further announcement would be made “as and when appropriate”.
On Thursday, Trinity Mirror revealed top-level editorial changes at its national daily titles with both Daily Express editor Hugh Whittow and Daily Star editor Dawn Neesom stepping down.
As a result, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People editor Gary Jones was appointed editor-in-chief of the Daily Express and Daily Mirror editor Peter Willis is taking on editorship of the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People.
Daily Mirror deputy editor-in-chief Alison Phillips has been promoted to editor and Daily Mirror associate editor Jon Clark was appointed editor-in-chief of the Daily Star.
Trinity Mirror chief executive Simon Fox visited the Express newsroom on Thursday to address reporters.
In a written statement to staff, he reaffirmed Trinity Mirror’s commitment to the editorial independence of each of its titles, saying they must have “the freedom to operate accordingly”.
Picture: Reuters/Simon Dawson