Culture Secretary Matt Hancock has instructed Ofcom to investigate Trinity Mirror’s planned £127m deal to buy the Express newspapers from Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell.
Hancock has called in the media regulator to look into issues including whether the takeover could impact freedom of expression and opinion and editorial decision-making at the titles, which include the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday.
He’s also asked Ofcom to examine whether the deal – which would see the combined company becoming the UK’s second-largest national newspaper group – raises issues relating to a sufficient plurality of views in the market.
He said: “The first public interest ground is the need for free expression of opinion, and concerns the potential impact the transfer of newspapers would have on editorial decision making.
“The second public interest ground is the need for a sufficient plurality of views in newspapers, to the extent that it is reasonable or practicable.”
Hancock, who could block the deal or force a sell-off of some titles, has given Ofcom until May 31st to conduct its investigation.
He’s already asked the Competition Markets Authority to report back on any wider competition issues by the end of the month.
“I will then consider whether or not to refer the merger for a more detailed investigation, or whether to accept undertakings-in-lieu of such a reference,” Hancock added.