OFT clears way for new free daily on the Tube

By Dominic Ponsford

London now looks certain to get a second free daily paper following
a longawaited decision from the Office of Fair Trading to open up the
market.

After a two-year investigation, the OFT has accepted an offer from
Associated Newspapers, which publishes the morning paper Metro, to give
up its 24-hour monopoly to allow distribution of a free
afternoon/evening newspaper at London public transport stations.

The
OFT is to enter a period of public consultation on this proposal and is
expected to publish a decision accepting binding commitments from
Associated Newspapers which would close the matter within the next few
months.

The original investigation from the OFT was started following complaints from Express Newspapers boss Richard Desmond.

Last
month the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, pre-empted the OFT ruling
by inviting bids for a new free newspaper to be distributed at
Transport for London stations.

According to the OFT, the publisher of the new paper would be allowed to use existing Metro circulation racks.

Livingstone
responded to the OFT decision by saying he would still lobby to have
Associated Newspapers’ 10- year exclusive distribution contract for a
free morning newspaper lifted.

● The Financial Times is to launch a free afternoon newsletter called FTpm.

It
will be printed on two sides of A4 and be available in print and online
(as a PDF) to corporate clients such as City of London office
developments, leading UK plcs, airlines and business hotels.

FTpm
is due to be launched before the end of April and will be available
from 4pm every day using the latest content from the paper’s website,
FT.com. It will also promote content, comment and analysis from the
next day’s Financial Times and will carry advertising.

LONDON’S NEXT FREE DAILY

WHO’S IN THE RUNNING

Express Newspapers

Richard Desmond must start as favourite to win the tender because he
has been planning for the launch of a rival free daily in London since
late 2002. He even appointed LBC presenter Nick Ferrari as
editor-in-waiting for a period. In June 2003, Associated Newspapers won
a legal challenge to stop Desmond’s proposed paper being called The
Evening Mail. Other mooted titles have included PM.

Metro International

This Swedish-owned group has its headquarters in London and
publishes 45 editions of the original Metro in 17 countries around the
world with a claimed readership of more than 15 million.
Editor-in-chief Per Mikael Jensen told Press Gazette in March 2004: “I
think there is room for another free newspaper in London… I don’t see
why in some years that you can’t have three, four or five different
freesheets in the big cities.”

Associated Newspapers

There is nothing to stop Associated tendering for the new free. It
already has the distribution infrastructure and the experience of
producing Metro.

News International, Guardian Media Group, Telegraph Group, Trinity Mirror, Independent News & Media

None of the other major national newspaper groups can be ruled out
at this stage. Each could develop synergies between a new paper and
their printing, distribution and journalistic resources. Trinity Mirror
also has the benefit of an existing network of local newspapers in
London.

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