Enders: Urgent action needed to save newspapers

A third of the UK’s regional newspapers, two national newspapers and half of the jobs in the regional media will disappear in the next five years, a leading media analyst has predicted.

Claire Enders, the founder and chief executive of media research firm Enders Analysis, has called on the Government to urgently relax the competition rules governing cross-media ownership to allow newspaper groups to buy each other and enable print, TV and radio companies to diversify further.

“Local newspapers in particular are carrying the full pain of the terrible decline of the local communities in this country which is happening and will accelerate as the retailers die on the High Street,” Enders told a Westminster Media Forum conference in London this morning.

“The effect of this in terms of jobs is going to be pretty catastrophic. We’re expecting half of those jobs to go within the next five years.”

She added: “By 2013 we are expecting the local press in particular to have declined very very substantially indeed.

“In that period we’re expecting over a third of regional publications to go out of business or close and we are also expecting at least two national titles to go.”

Enders said speed was of the essence in overhauling the competition regime surrounding newspaper ownership – and claimed that regional newpaper titles were closing at the rate of “10 to 15 a week”.

“I am very hopeful that if the Government is aware of the fact that individuals titles keep individual communities alive that they will hopefully understand that the time for a full relaxation of the barriers to consolidation is the only way to keep those jobs alive,” Enders said.

“The Government cannot expect the commercial sector to just go under. I don’t think that’s going to be good for a sector that employs perhaps 10,000 people.

“If there are no barriers, I think more titles will stay alive. I’m not saying that the closures will stop – they won’t.”

She also said private equity interest in the regional newspaper industry has also died since Daily Mail and General Trust decided to scrap the proposed sale of its regionals division, Northcliffe, because it thought the bids undervalued the company.

“There are no companies investing in the sector except for the companies that are already in this sector. Everybody’s been trying to get out of the local press,” Enders said.

“If DMGT had been able to get £950m for Northcliffe Newspapers they would be in a much better shape today.”

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