By Mary Stevens
The Competition Commission, which is looking into the proposed transfer of 23 newspapers in the London area from Independent News and Media to Newsquest, has highlighted what it says are the main issues involved in the sale.
They include concerns about the effect a takeover would have on content, and the accurate presentation of news, opinion and editorial policies. The commission has sent a statement to both companies to ensure that all matters are investigated, but said it has not yet reached any conclusions.
It will look at how the merger could affect the structure of the local newspaper market and whether it would be anti-competitive.
The commission will also consider if the “current divergence in editorial slant under different ownership has benefits to the community which could be affected by the transfers; this would include differences in the depth of coverage of issues and differences in policy toward publishing letters from political parties.”
It will look at whether the sale could prevent other publishers launching rival papers and whether advertisers would face increases in rates. The commission will also look at whether the merger would have a negative effect on very localised editions.
It said that it might refuse the merger, refuse it in part or impose “behavioural remedies” on the deal.
The commission estimates that the transfer would increase Newsquest’s share of local papers in London to 50 per cent. In some areas of South London it would own almost 100 per cent.