Bullivant withdraws from Birmingham newspaper war

Newspaper entrepreneur Chris Bullivant is to withdraw his Birmingham titles after admitting they were unable to compete with ad rates being offered by Trinity Mirror.

The publisher released a statement on Friday confirming that his publishing business CJB Company was not able to match the deal BPM Media - Trinity's Birmingham publishing business – was offering local estate agents in a bid to capture their business.

As a result Birmingham Press and the Birmingham Free Press would be withdrawn, he said, bringing to an end the newspaper war which was sparked by their launch earlier this year.

Bullivant had written to his estate agency advertisers last month inviting them to a form a consortium to take control and save the Birmingham Free Press, however this came to nothing.

The publisher said he would now contact the Office of Fair Trading about the pricing structure being offered by BPM Media.

His statement said: 'It has been rumoured over recent weeks that the Birmingham Press and the Birmingham Free Press were due to close.

'The truth is that the CJB Company which publishes these Birmingham newspapers had secured the backing of our bankers to continue publishing providing we, in turn, secured the backing of the Birmingham estate agents to support the project.

'A meeting was held on Thursday between representatives of BPM Media and the estate agents of Birmingham.

'The agents were offered an advertising package consisting of a page appearing in the Birmingham Mail and a page appearing in the Mail Extra, a total of 130,000 copies per week, full colour, for the sum of £250. The duration of this offer was until December 2011.

'I was approached by a number of the Birmingham estate agents this morning and asked if I could compete with the BPM Media price.

'I had to say that I could not – and I had to start the withdrawal of my newspapers from Birmingham as a result.

'I am complaining about the BPM Media pricing structure to the Office of Fair Trading, but if BPM Media prove to be right in their pricing, I fear there is no future for independent publishing in the UK.

'It would be interesting to know if Trinity Mirror has made similar offers to other groups of advertisers in the Midlands or in their Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle or Cardiff dailies; if not, why not?

'…I introduced free newspapers into this country in 1970, and free dailies 1985. I firmly believe that the Press /Free Press formula will be the one that eventually replaces daily regional newspapers, I am extremely proud of the product.

'I would like to take this opportunity to thank my excellent team who helped me develop the project over the last eight months and, to quote my 'north Brummie'editor, produce a bostin' newspaper."

Launch of the Free Press title in June added to a newspaper war in Birmingham which was created in April when its sister paper - the part paid-for weekly, the Birmingham Press - was launched by Bullivant.

Trinity Mirror rolled out the Birmingham Post Lite - a free, condensed version of its weekly Post title – shortly after the launch of the Press with both targeting the upmarket areas of Moseley, Edgbaston and Harborne in the south of the city with its free distribution.

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