The News Media Association has said fee hikes of up to 167 per cent on independent publishers by distributors Smiths News could put smaller newspapers “out of business”.
NMA chairman David Dinsmore (pictured) criticised the new terms, which he said are “targeting smaller weekly independent publishers”.
In a letter to Smiths News’s senior business manager Gavin Fraser, Dinsmore said: “We are very concerned to learn that Smiths News has been threatening to impose massive fee increases of more than 50 per cent – and even 167 per cent in one case – on some of our smallest local members.”
It is believed that if these papers do not agree to the new terms then they risk losing their distributing deals with Smiths News.
In the letter Dinsmore added, “This demand comes at the worst possible time for local newspapers, particularly the smaller, family-owned, independent weekly publishers which Smiths News appears to be targeting.
“You may be aware that a number of local newspapers have been forced to close or sell in the past two years.
“All local publishers have had to cut costs in every part of the business to remain viable and provide their communities with the local journalism on which they rely.”
He added: “Smiths News is often the monopoly wholesale distributor in their areas so they have nowhere else to turn.
“In these challenging times for local newspapers, the sort of price increases you are seeking could easily put them out of business.”
Dinsmore urged Smiths News to reconsider the new commercial terms they proposed to local publishers, saying they pose a threat to “the sustainability of one of the cornerstones of our local democracy”.
Smiths News is one of the largest newspaper and magazine wholesalers in the UK, delivering to 30,000 retailers in England and Wales.
It is a distribution partner for a number of national and regional newspaper publishers, including the Daily Mail and General Trust and Trinity Mirror.
The fee increase comes after a the Cairncross Review into the sustainability of the press was launched by the Government earlier this year. The review looks to “preserve the future of high quality national and local newspapers in the UK”.
On launching the review Theresa May said, “A free press is one of the foundations on which our democracy is built and it must be preserved.”
Smiths News has yet to respond to a request for comment.
Picture: Press Gazette