The National Union of Journalists is calling for guarantees on staffing levels and job security after Reach entered talks to buy titles from JPI Media.
Reach confirmed yesterday it is in the “early stages” of talks to buy “certain assets” from JPI Media, which publishes the i and more than 150 regional titles including the Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman.
Reach owns the Mirror, Express and Star titles and 25 regional dailies including the Manchester Evening News and Liverpool Echo, plus a number of weekly titles.
The NUJ called Reach’s interest in buying parts of JPI Media “alarming” and said it is seeking guarantees on “realistic, sustainable staffing levels and job security” if a deal goes ahead.
The union also called for MPs to investigate media plurality in the wake of the news.
An NUJ spokesperson said: “If parts of JPI Media are sold to Reach there will be an adverse impact on the market and those employed within it. A takeover of this kind would limit the scope for future jobs in the entire sector.
“Any deal that includes JPI Media’s flagship regional titles would lead to the market being dominated by just two companies – Reach and Newsquest. Both organisations have been relentless in reducing original content and the provision of local professional journalism.
“The union is concerned that decisions on editorial policy and news gathering and practice will be concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people and so we are calling on parliamentarians to investigate the lack of media plurality in Britain.”
A further reduction in the number of companies that own UK newspaper titles would have a “profoundly damaging impact on public debate and democracy,” the union added.
In a statement yesterday, Reach confirmed it is “in the early stages of discussions in relation to acquiring certain of JPI Media’s assets”.
It added: “Regular consideration is given to merger and acquisition opportunities which would accelerate its strategy. There can be no certainty at this stage that these discussions will lead to an agreed transaction. A further announcement will be made if and when appropriate.”
JPI Media chief executive David King confirmed in an email to staff the company is pursuing a “formal process to explore the sale of the business”.
“There is no certainty that a sale will result,” the email added.
JPI Media was formed by Johnston Press bondholders who bought the publisher’s titles in a pre-pack administration deal last year.
The investors agreed to wipe out £135m of the publisher’s debt and extend the deadline on remaining £85m debt to December 2023.