It appears that only two bids are being considered in the sale of UK newspaper group, JPIMedia, which owns the three newspapers in The Scotsman
stable in Edinburgh, and a sizeable chunk of Scottish weekly titles. Sky News revealed that both Archant and a consortium headed by former Local World boss, David Montgomery, have tabled offers for the regional publisher which put itself up for sale for a second time in September − signalling a long-awaited industry consolidation entering a new phase.
Sky News reported: 'Norwich-based Archant, which publishes the Eastern Daily Press
, recently agreed a rescue deal with Rcapital Partners and is seen by analysts as the likeliest buyer of JPIMedia because of the potential cost savings that a merger would generate. Montgomery created a listed vehicle called National World to acquire media assets but lost out in the Archant auction'.
JPIMedia employs close on 2,000 people and publishes more than 200 titles across the UK − many of which have recently switched to digital-only editions. Media industry website, HoldTheFrontPage, reports: 'Since late 2018, the company has been owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors including Goldentree Asset Management, CarVal and Fidelity, when the then Johnston Press collapsed into administration... The insolvency process which led to the creation of JPIMedia involved writing off £135 million debt, leaving it with £85 million of borrowings. Its new owners also injected £35 million of new capital to put it on a more sustainable footing'.
HoldTheFrontPage adds: 'The prospects for Britain's regional newspaper publishers have appeared bleak for years, with declining advertising revenues and the impact of Google and Facebook's online presence in news exerting a stark toll on traditional local outlets. Reach plc, the UK's biggest regional publisher as well as owning the Daily Mirror
and Daily Express
, recently announced hundreds of job cuts'.
GCA Altium, the investment bank, is overseeing the sale of JPIMedia. The second bid is understood to have come from a consortium involving Montgomery's investment vehicle, National World, and turnaround investor, Endless. National World was previously reported to have been 'invited for talks' with JPIMedia when it first put itself up for sale. Rcapital Partners took a majority stake in Archant in August. Reach plc ruled itself out of the bidding in September.
Co-incidentally, a new newsroom model which sees journalists split into three teams covering live news, specialist news and sport has gone live at JPIMedia's major Scottish titles. The 'Digital Acceleration' plan involves the creation of a single 'One Scotland' leadership team responsible for The Scotsman
, the Edinburgh Evening News
, Scotland on Sunday
, the Falkirk Herald
and Fife Free Press
. The leadership team will work across all titles with journalists in the live news, specialist news and sports teams focusing on digital content. A separate print and content unit will be responsible for publication of the printed titles.
JPIMedia's smaller Scottish titles remain within their current structure and report to Neil Pickford who runs the 'Advanced Community' teams. Editorial director, Jeremy Clifford, told staff in Scotland: 'This is the third deployment of the Digital Acceleration model – with the North East and North Midlands/South Yorkshire previously having moved into the new digital first way of working. My thanks to everyone in Scotland involved in this project and to the fantastic support from other areas of the business in getting us to this stage. We wish everyone in Scotland our best wishes in making this a success'.
Nicola Sturgeon has acknowledged the vital role that the news media has performed in keeping the public informed during the COVID-19 crisis, and declares that newspapers remain essential to the economic recovery from the pandemic.
Writing in an op-ed published by the News Media Association, in recognition of 'Journalism Matters' week, Sturgeon said: 'I am a firm believer that a free and fearless press is essential to hold those in power to account. The relationship between journalists and politicians is one that has tension at its heart. But it is a healthy tension, which can be productive and positive. Journalists are in the position to pose the questions that the public want to ask – and it is our duty as politicians to answer them as honestly and fairly as we can. It is the role of journalists to ask those hard questions and, in doing so, provide a foundation for the democratic and open society in which we live'.
Referring to the Scottish Government's regular COVID-19 media briefings, Sturgeon explained that she frequently took questions from 15 to 20 media outlets every day − encompassing broadcast, print and online. She said that these questions allowed the media to relay accurate guidance and advice to the public.
She pointed out: 'I am keenly aware of how important it is that the questions receive the answers they deserve, because journalism is an essential part of the country's response to COVID-19: not only by asking those hard questions, but also in communicating vital factual information to the public. Newspapers daily and weekly print stories that explain government thinking and the latest response to the pandemic – but also relay the guidance and advice that can help protect its readers from this potentially deadly virus'.
Alongside keeping the public informed, the media could also play a role in the economic recovery from the virus by providing a vital advertising platform for local businesses, said the First Minister, adding: 'Newspapers also are an important part of the economic recovery from the impact of the virus. They can provide a vital platform, through their advertising, to businesses, in particular small and medium enterprises'.
Scotland's Lorraine Kelly and former BBC deputy director-general, Anne Bulford, have both been made CBEs in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for their services to broadcasting. Glasgow-born Lorraine, 60, who was also cited for services to journalism and charity, had been appointed an OBE back in 2012. She has hosted the STV Children's Appeal since 2011. She got her on-screen break in 1984 when she joined TV-am
as Scotland correspondent and has presented her daily show on ITV since 2010.
She commented: 'I've worked in journalism since I left school in 1978 and joined my local newspaper, [East Kilbride News
] and have been lucky to have been on breakfast TV for 36 years'. She is married to Steve, a freelance cameraman, and they have a daughter, Rosie. They lived in Broughty Ferry until 2017, when Lorraine decided the constant commuting was proving too onerous, and the family moved to live near London.
The Scottish Daily Mail
has revealed that Kelly's company, Albatel, has a net worth of £3.7 million, with £2.7 million held in a bank account. The company made a profit last year after tax of more than £500,000. She overturned a £1.2 million tax bill last year after a court ruled she was self-employed while working for ITV. The dispute revealed ITV made payments totalling more than £3.1 million to Albatel between 2012 and 2015.
Ali Machray, editor of the Liverpool Echo
for the past 15 years, was among three journalists made MBEs. He was joined by broadcast journalist, Marcus Ryder, for his work in the fight for more diversity in the media, and Jane MacQuitty, wine critic of The Times
, for services to wine journalism.
Two journalists were given OBEs – former Kent Messenger Group chairman, Geraldine Allinson, and former BBC Radio 4 controller, Gwyneth Williams. And two journalists were awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) – former BBC Wales journalist, Jayne James, for services to the community in Wales, and Gulf Daily News
editor-in-chief, George Williams, for services to journalism.
The honours list came days after the Queen issued a message of support for the news media. She said: 'The COVID-19 pandemic has once again demonstrated what an important public service the established news media provides, both nationally and regionally. As our world has changed dramatically, having trusted, reliable sources of information, particularly at a time when there are so many sources competing for our attention, is vital. The efforts of the news media to support communities throughout the United Kingdom during the pandemic has been invaluable – whether through fundraising, encouraging volunteering, or providing a lifeline for the elderly and vulnerable to the outside world'.