Jury out on momentous move

Newspaper joint venture: industry reacts

News UK and DMG Media newspaper titles
News UK and DMG Media newspaper titles

Industry players have begun reacting to the momentous news from News UK and DMG Media, which plan to form a joint venture for newspaper production.

As revealed by Printweek yesterday evening, the publishing rivals have agreed to team up to create a sustainable setup for future newspaper printing production, based around the three existing Newsprinters sites, which all run the same type of Manroland triple-width presses, alongside extensive mailroom and finishing facilities.

The Newsprinters sites are located in Hertfordshire just north of the M25 (Broxbourne), Merseyside (Knowsley) and Glasgow (Eurocentral).

Printweek understands that DMG Media production director Julia Palmer-Poucher addressed the workforce at Dinnington in South Yorkshire yesterday to explain the plans, while DMG deputy CEO James Welsh undertook the same task at its Thurrock plant in Essex.

Palmer-Poucher told employees that the proposed new company, ‘NewCo’, would handle printing and primary distribution for Newsprinters and DMG Media, including the i and Metro titles, but would not take over the business of Metro distribution.

She said: “We have not come to this decision lightly. The decision to pursue this proposal is the best option for the future of our industry. It is absolutely no reflection on the professionalism, commitment and pride you have shown throughout your time working with DMG Media.”

DMG and News UK are liaising with the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) regarding their plans, and Palmer-Poucher said a collective consultation with all affected staff would begin “as soon as we are able to do so”.

“Until these processes are complete, the DMG Media printing business and Newsprinters UK remain separate and independent businesses and will continue to operate as we do today.

“We understand these are uncertain times. We will continue to communicate with you to provide guidance and as much clarity where possible as we move forward with this process,” she stated.

Unite national officer Louisa Bull was understandably concerned about the likely job losses at DMG’s two print sites.

She told Printweek: “Whilst I understand the changing landscape in newsprint and the need to consolidate, this is not good news for loyal Unite members who will no doubt be casualties at both Dinnington and Thurrock.

“Employers have a responsibility to start upskilling our members when they put these plans together and not just serve notice of dismissal. Members have worked hard for years and deserve more than their P45.”

One newspaper industry source commented: “I’m trying to decide if it’s good news or bad news. It’s another major downscaling of the industry, but it’s also about creating something that’s in a stronger position for the future.

“What’s also interesting is how all the things that have been seen as critical by having control of production for decades, like schedules and priority, will be agreed.”

A spokesperson for media group Reach, the UK’s largest contract newspaper printer, said the business had nothing to say at this stage.

Commenting on Printweek’s story on LinkedIn, Optimum Group director of business development Will Parker described the move as “great news”.

“Notably one of the fastest declining and most challenging sectors of the printed world over the last decade. This is truly great news to see a sensible approach to co-operation and not the usual straight fight to the bottom that occurs time and time again.

“Hopefully they can conserve employment and the existing skill bases whilst developing longer term media migration plans.”

Phil Baldwin, European sales manager at press manufacturer Mark Andy, shared similar sentiments.

“A different segment to what I work in but great news on co-operation to keep jobs in print and hopefully maintain the businesses in a very challenging and slowing market segment of print,” he said.

Separately, a high-volume print specialist mused that the plans to close Thurrock would result in another process leaving that part of the market: “First gravure, now flexo”.

The timeline for the proposed changes is not yet public and is pending regulatory approval.