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March 25, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:05am

Government clears Mail publisher DMGT’s takeover of the i paper

By Charlotte Tobitt

The Government has cleared Mail and Metro owner Daily Mail and General Trust’s buyout of the i newspaper after being told there were no plurality or competition concerns about the deal.

DMGT bought the i from JPI Media for £49.6m in November but the titles have been operating separately while an investigation into the impact of the deal was underway.

Ofcom, which had been asked to prepare a report on the potential public interest implications of the deal, has now told ministers DMGT has a “strong commercial incentive to maintain the i’s distinct voice and editorial positioning” as a non-partisan title.

It said the i’s position in the market was likely to increase DMGT’s ability to generate revenues from sales to new readers and by broadening its demographics for advertisers.

The editors of the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Metro all assured Ofcom they have editorial freedom from proprietor Lord Rothermere.

Daily Mail editor Geordie Grieg said: “It is part of established practice
and precedent at Mail Newspapers that editors of the papers have complete independence and authority to edit as they think fit, with no interference internally or externally.”

Mail on Sunday editor Ted Verity, who changed the paper’s stance on Brexit when he took over in 2018, said: “I didn’t discuss my thinking with anyone else in the group – and certainly not with the chairman or commercial management of DMGT.”

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He said this “sums up precisely the absolute freedom” he has as editor of the paper.

Metro editor Ted Young also said: “All editorial decisions are entirely down to me.”

Ofcom also said that although the number of national newspaper owners went from seven to six as a result of the deal, the number of titles and therefore plurality of views should remain the same.

It said: “DMGT titles already reach the most adults of any newspaper group (print and online) in the UK.

“The i has a relatively small readership and accounts for less than 0.1 per cent share of cross-media news consumption, so adds only a small increase to the overall consumption of DMGT titles post-merger.

“While the i is a trusted voice for its readers, they typically use a large range of other sources for news which may dilute the impact of the i’s voice for them.”

Ofcom noted that the deal should be good for the long-term stability of the i, which has had four owners within four years.

It said that “within the context of the challenges that newspapers face… the acquisition may put the i on a more stable footing than has been the case previously, and thereby increase the prospects of its survival over the longer term”.

The Competition and Markets Authority, which was also asked to report to Government, said it had no competition concerns because the i is not a “close competitor” with the Mail and Metro titles.

It added that DMGT’s newspapers would all face more “significant competitive constraints” from other nationals and other forms of advertising media.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said in a written ministerial statement that he accepted the findings of both bodies and has decided not to refer the deal for a more in-depth investigation.

DMGT chairman Lord Rothermere said: “I am delighted that, after thorough investigation, both the Competition and Market Authority and OfCom have agreed that the acquisition of the i by DMG Media does not result in a substantial lessening of competition in any market, nor a reduction in the plurality of views across newspaper groups in the UK.

“Editorial independence is an article of faith at DMG Media and we are committed to maintaining both the independence and distinctive qualities of the i.

“I would like to take this opportunity of welcoming the extremely talented journalists and staff of the i to DMGT and to say how much we are looking forward to working with them in the years ahead.”

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