Guardian Media Group chairman Paul Myners has warned that economic pressures will lead to more regional newspaper mergers, more free sheets and does not even rule out the Manchester Evening News becoming a completely free newspaper.
‘This is an industry which is under a considerable amount of pressure for change,’he told a House of Lords select committee.
‘Strong groups will thrive in that environment. Others won’t.
‘We will see more consolidation in the ownership of regional titles, although that may not be immediate. It is difficult to identify who has he resources or appetite currently to be the driving force behind consolidation.”
Giving evidence to the House of Lords Communications Committee, which is examining the impact media ownership has on the way news is presented, Myners said there was a longstanding trend towards free titles.
Chairman Lord Fowler, himself a former journalist, questioned the economics of giving the GMG-ownedManchester Evening News away free in the city centre but selling it on the outskirts.
“It is an economic model which accurately reflects the cost of distribution,’Myners told the committee.
Lord Fowler asked whether he would rule out the prospect, at some stage, of the Manchester Evening News becoming ‘entirely free”.
‘I don’t rule out any possibilities in any aspect of my commercial life,’Myners said.
Myners, however, said the competition between the two free London evening newspapers was ‘not sustainable’and forecast at some stage it would be brought to an end.
Liberal Democrat peer Lady Bonham-Carter told him the NUJ had argued that changes in the industry had led to fewer journalists being employed, fewer journalists having to undertake more tasks and in consequence ‘poorer journalism”.
Myners said: “It has led to fewer people being members of the NUJ.”
He added that it had led to journalists undertaking more diverse jobs. ‘So that someone who was previously described as a journalist who sat at a typewriter, now podcasts, now speaks to video, now blogs online. It is a more challenging and appealing job.”
‘Many of these other areas have not been as unionised as journalism which has caused a problem for the NUJ. The Guardian, of course, enjoys a very strong and good relationship with our union colleagues.”