Move away from Wapping will 'boost profitability of The Sun'

Yelland: move from Wapping to sites with modern technology willmake The Sun more profitable

The Sun could lose 50 per cent of its sale over the next five years and still be more profitable than it is today.

This was the verdict of former editor David Yelland following the announcement that News International is to spend £600m on new printing sites outside Wapping.

Updated technology will enable Rupert Murdoch to print his London nationals in full colour and therefore charge a premium on advertising. The limitations of the 18-year-old Wapping printing presses mean that most pages, including ads, have to be printed in black and white.

Yelland said on Tuesday: “The sale of The Sun could probably halve and still be more profitable than it is now because of what was announced today.”

Printing plants for The Sun , News of theWorld, The Times and The Sunday Times are to be built in Enfield (north London), Glasgow and Knowsley (close to Liverpool). Themove will take four to five years and result in about 600 out of the current total of 1,000 printing staff beingmade redundant.

The move to Wapping from Fleet Street in 1986 led to some of the worst industrial unrest in recent years after Murdoch sacked thousands of heavily unionised print workers.

No journalists or other office staff willmove from Wapping as a result of the changes. However, it is planned that staff in outlying buildings will move into the main walled Wapping complex to use the space vacated by the printers.

The new technology will permit later copy deadlines and give News International the capability to produce 120-page tabloid newspapers in full colour.

News International executive chairman Les Hinton said: “The biggest change commercially over the past seven to eight years has been increasing demand for colour [from advertisers].

“Now with The Sun on Thursday, Friday and Saturday we have to buy contract printing all over the country to print a paper with enough colour to satisfy the advertisers. That’s not efficient.”

He added: “We are the last national newspaper business whose journalists sit on top of the presses.

Now already we print remotely in lots of sites. You don’t need to be on top of your presses any more and having a large manufacturing and distribution business in downtown London is a big logistical issue.

“Newspapers are big manufacturing and distribution organisations and like other manufacturing organisations we are taking advantage of new technology.

Although there will no jobs lost at all for at least two years, the remaining jobs will be spread over at least two to three years. Automation will mean fewer people.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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