Union warns that local press is heading “towards a duopoly”

Stephen Chapman's picture
by Stephen Chapman

Following this morning’s announcement that CN Group is set to be acquired by Newsquest, the National Union of Journalists has warned that the local newspaper sector is heading towards a duopoly.

Newsquest has already taken over the NWN Group in North Wales, while Trinity acquired Local World in 2015.

“The rate of takeover of independent newspaper operators is speeding up with apparently just two big players in the market – Trinity Mirror and Newsquest,” stated Chris Morley, Newsquest NUJ co-ordinator.

“With Johnston Press paralysed by its debts, the industry seems to be moving to a duopoly of giant owners which is incredibly dangerous for diversity, given the ruthless substitution of unique content for shared material, and plurality of the media. There is too little choice for readers and too few opportunities for journalists.

He continued:

“The CN papers have had a proud history of caring for and being a leading part of their communities. Despite the very best efforts of its journalists, this is not something that can typically be said about Newsquest with its relentless drive to strip out editorial jobs and fill the gap with user-generated content.

"The media ownership question is a serious issue for this country and politicians have to put away their warm words on plurality and be prepared roll up their sleeves to do something practical to keep a functioning and effective local press.”

CN Group’s CEO will be meeting unions to talk about the future and they’ve also requested a meeting with Newsquest boss, Henry Faure Walker.

"We will be telling him that members are already at full stretch and there is no slack in the system. We will be asking him for investment so they can continue to produce the quality journalism at the heart of their communities. We will be seeking assurances that redundancies which have followed recent Newsquest purchases will not be repeated at CN Group,” explained Jane Kennedy, the union’s Northern & Midlands organiser.

CN Group chairman, Robin Burgess explained the reasons behind the move in a statement this morning. He blamed developments in digital and social media, plus pension deficits as to why he was selling a firm, which had been in his family for 4 generations.