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Media Acquisition: Public Interest Intervention Notice

Volume 670: debated on Tuesday 21 January 2020

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Baroness Morgan of Cotes, has made the following statement:

On 9 January DCMS officials wrote to the Daily Mail and General Trust pic (DMGT) to inform them that the Secretary of State for DCMS was ‘minded to’ issue a public interest intervention notice (PIIN). She has confirmed today that she is issuing the PIIN.

This relates to concerns she has that there may be public interest considerations—as set out in section 58(2B) of Enterprise Act 2002—that are relevant to the recent acquisition of JPI Media Publications Limited, and thus the i newspaper, by DMGT and that these concerns warrant further investigation.

The Secretary of State invited the parties to submit representations to her, which they have done. She has noted their representations regarding protections for editorial independence, including commercial incentives for maintaining the editorial position of the i. However, she continues to believe that it may be the case that the public interest consideration of sufficient plurality of viewpoints in newspapers is relevant to this merger. She thus considers it appropriate to intervene in this matter.

At this stage, the Secretary of State’s decision to issue the PIIN triggers the requirement for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to report to her on jurisdictional and competition matters; and for Ofcom to report to her on the media public interest consideration in section 58(2B) of the Enterprise Act 2002—namely, the need for, to the extent that it is reasonable and practicable, a sufficient plurality of views in newspapers in each market for newspapers in the United Kingdom or a part of the United Kingdom. She has asked both the CMA and Ofcom to report back to her by 13 March 2020.

The Secretary of State’s role in this process is quasi-judicial and procedures are in place to ensure that she acts independently and follows a process which is scrupulously fair, transparent and impartial.

DCMS will update Parliament once both reports from the regulators have been received and considered.