Ofcom to investigate Trinity Mirror deal to buy Express and Star

Media regulator called in to report on whether takeover will impact issues such as editorial independence

Trinity Mirror’s £200m deal to buy the Express and Star newspapers is to be investigated by media regulator Ofcom over issues including plurality and the editorial independence of Richard Desmond’s titles.

The company’s shareholders have voted to approve the deal to add the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday newspapers, as well as magazines including celebrity title OK!, to its national titles the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People.

However, Matt Hancock, the culture secretary, has called in Ofcom to investigate whether there are concerns that the takeover could impact freedom of expression and opinion and editorial decision-making at the Express and Star newspapers.

He has also ordered the Ofcom to examine whether the deal, which will result in the combined company becoming the UK’s second-largest national newspaper group, owning nine of 20 titles, raises issues of a sufficient plurality of views in the market.

“I have written to the parties today confirming my decision to issue a public interest intervention notice (PIIN) on both grounds,” Hancock said.

Hancock, who wields the power to block the deal or force a sell-off of some titles, has given Ofcom until 31 May to complete its investigation. He has also asked the Competition Markets Authority to report back on any wider competition issues the deal may raise by the end of the month.

“I will then consider whether or not to refer the merger for a more detailed investigation, or whether to accept undertakings-in-lieu of such a reference,” Hancock added.

Simon Fox, the Trinity Mirror chief executive, has repeatedly pledged that his Labour-supporting Daily and Sunday Mirror will keep Desmond’s Brexit-supporting titles editorially independent. “The Mirror is not going to go rightwing and the Express is not going to go leftwing,” he said. “They will absolutely all have editorial independence.”

Sign up to the daily Business Today email or follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk

As the deal completed, however, the editors of the Daily Express and Daily Star resigned. Trinity Mirror immediately announced the appointment of two of its executives – Sunday Mirror and Sunday People editor Gary Jones, and Daily Mirror associate editor Jon Clark – as replacements.

Trinity Mirror maintains that it believes the deal does not raise issues of a reduction in media plurality. “Each newspaper brand will continue with its current editorial positioning, and that there will not be any detrimental impact on competition as a result of the acquisition,” the company said.


Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Why Trinity Mirror bought the Express and Star titles
All you need to know about the most significant UK newspaper merger in decades

Mark Sweney

09, Feb, 2018 @11:34 AM

Article image
Top Mirror editor warns of deeper job losses if Express deal fails
Lloyd Embley says failure to buy Richard Desmond’s papers would lose cost-savings and admits looming gender pay gap data could be ‘embarrassing’

Mark Sweney

19, Nov, 2017 @3:08 PM

Article image
Trinity Mirror buys Express and Star in £200m deal
Richard Desmond agrees to sell newspapers along with celebrity magazine OK!

Mark Sweney

09, Feb, 2018 @9:51 AM

Article image
Trinity Mirror deal for Express and Star faces competition scrutiny
£200m media buyout to be investigated by the competition regulator and culture secretary

Mark Sweney

11, Apr, 2018 @8:45 AM

Article image
Trinity Mirror confirms talks with Richard Desmond's Express Group
Daily Mirror parent company in ‘early stage’ talks with Northern & Shell over merger of back office and sales operations to make significant savings

Mark Sweney

10, Jan, 2017 @10:20 AM

Article image
Richard Desmond poised to sell Express and Star to Trinity Mirror
Fears for media plurality as potential £130m deal for Express and Star papers plus magazines such as OK! signals exit of one of publishing sector’s most ruthless operators

Mark Sweney

08, Sep, 2017 @6:07 PM

Article image
National World plots takeover of Mirror and Express owner Reach
David Montgomery says the publisher is in the early stages of a potential offer

Mark Sweney

03, Nov, 2022 @6:49 PM

Article image
Mirror takeover of Express and Star faces fresh investigation
Culture secretary considers intervention to address concerns about editorial independence

Mark Sweney

23, Apr, 2018 @5:27 PM

Article image
How much has Richard Desmond made from Express Newspapers?
Proprietor has squeezed a fortune from his titles while staff have struggled with near-decade-long pay freeze

Mark Sweney

08, Sep, 2017 @3:41 PM

Article image
Mirror makes room in the lifeboats for Express and Star | Peter Preston
Mirror’s plan to buy Richard Desmond’s newspapers is like two random souls hugging each other for temporary safety

Peter Preston

10, Sep, 2017 @6:00 AM