David Mitchell: Don't let Observer become 'glorified Sunday Guardian'

Comedian David Mitchell argued against the prospect of the Observer becoming a ‘glorified Guardian on Sunday’ last night saying it would deprive the British media of an essential liberal voice.

Hosting the Stand up for the Observer event, the star of Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show and Observer columnist said saving the paper was only a “small amount of the battle” of maintaining the 218-year-old paper.

He said: “The key issue is whether the Observer retains its proper levels of funding and editorial intent.

“If the Observer essentially becomes a glorified Guardian on Sunday that might make the Guardian’s voice as part of the left wing media slightly louder, but it will deprive the liberal media of an entire other voice. I say two voices are better than one.”

Owner Guardian Media Group confirmed its commitment to publishing the Observer last week – ending six weeks of uncertainty over the title’s future after it emerged in August that closing the paper was one of the cost-saving options being considered as part of a review of operations.

However, an internal announcement to staff at Guardian News and Media, the division of GMG which publishes the Guardian and Observer, warned staff further editorial redundancies would now be needed and said that a voluntary redundancy scheme will be re-opening.

Mitchell said: “Even on the right of politics, where there is greater representation in the print media, very few of the quality papers on that side of the spectrum are safe.

“The Times exists because it is subsidised by a billionaire. And if the billionaire goes off it, it could disappear.

“The message I would like to send out here is that the Observer is vital to the range of voices in the British media, because it is one of the few on the left, but also because if it fails, they can all fail…Let’s not take the death of the print media as the inevitability that so many people smugly suggest.”

Press Gazette, the National Union of Journalists and Observer staff have been running a high-profile campaign urging GMG to safeguard the future of the world’s oldest Sunday newspaper.

Last night’s event was attended by around 300 supporters and staff of the paper, including actor Simon Callow, film critic Barry Norman and BBC Radio 4 Today programme host, John Humphrys.

Norman joined Observer film critic Philip French, writer Victoria Coren and former Observer journalist Katharine Whitehorne in reading some of their favourite pieces of journalism.

Michelle Stanistreet, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, used last night’s event to raise union fears that resources could be cut on the Observer.

She said: “When the news first came that GMG was considering closing the Observer the cynic in me immediately wondered if we would get to the point where they would back down on the closure but impose cuts that would impose a body blow to the title…

“Tonight is the start of the campaign to make sure the Observer continues to flourish in the future, for anything else was to happen would be a major disservice to a title that is very much respected and clearly much loved.”

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