The Government has told the Daily Mail and General Trust it is “minded to” intervene in its acquisition of the i newspaper over the potential impact on media plurality in the UK.
The Daily Mail owner bought the i from JPI Media in November for £49.6m, describing it as a “strong print title” with an “established reputation for quality journalism”.
DMGT pledged to maintain the i’s editorial independence, including its “distinctive style and politically neutral approach”.
But the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport wrote to DMGT and JPI Media today to inform them that Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan is “minded to” intervene in the purchase.
Culture Minister Nigel Adams said in a written statement to Parliament that Morgan is concerned there may be “public interest considerations” that warrant further investigation.
He referenced Section 58 of the Enterprise Act 2002, which specifies the need for “a sufficient plurality of views in newspapers in each market of newspapers in the United Kingdom or a part of the United Kingdom”.
Morgan’s letter to the publishers invites them to make representations by Monday and she will make a final decision on whether to issue an intervention notice by the end of the following week.
If she does, the next stage will see broadcast regulator Ofcom assess public interest concerns and the Competition and Markets Authority examine whether a “relevant merger situation” has been created and whether this could have an impact on competition.
The CMA has already served an initial enforcement order on DMGT forcing it to keep the Mail and i titles separate until its investigations are complete.
After Ofcom and the CMA provide their reports to Morgan, she will decide whether to refer the case for a more detailed investigation by the competition watchdog under Section 45 of the Enterprise Act 2002.
DMGT was prepared for a competition investigation into the deal and set out its plans to run the i separately to the rest of the company under editor Oly Duff and managing director Richard Thomson in its initial announcement of the purchase.