Culture Secretary Matt Hancock has said he is “minded to” intervene in the sale of Express Newspapers to Trinity Mirror on media plurality and free expression grounds.
The £127m takeover deal will see the Daily Express, Daily Star, Sunday Express, Daily Star Sunday, Sunday People and three celebrity magazines, including Ok!, sold to Trinity Mirror, which would rebrand as Reach.
Hancock said he had written to both parties explaining that he was “minded to issue a Public Interest Intervention Notice” amid concern that two aspects of the deal warrant further investigation.
He said: “The first public interest ground is the need for free expression of opinion, and concerns the potential impact the transfer of newspapers would have on editorial decision making.
“In coming to this decision I have given consideration to the issue of formal mechanisms to ensure that editorial independence is maintained at the acquired titles.
“The second ground is the need for a sufficient plurality of views in newspapers, to the extent that it is reasonable or practicable.”
He said the takeover of Northern and Shell’s publications would result in Trinity Mirror owning the largest share of national titles within the UK newspaper market.
It would become the second largest national newspaper organisation in circulation terms, Hancock said, with a 28 per cent share of average monthly circulation among national titles, based on figures for 2017.
He said any decision to intervene would require communications watchdog Ofcom to asses public interest considerations and the Competition and Markets Authority to report on jurisdiction.
He said he would aim to come to a final decision on whether to intervene in the merger “shortly”.
Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire