In November, newspaper group DMGT, which owns the Daily Mail, bought the i for £49.6m cash consideration. Lord Rothermere, chairman of DMGT, said at the time that it was “committed to preserving” the i’s “distinctive, high-quality and politically independent editorial style”.
In a written statement to parliament from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that was published on Thursday (9 January), minister of state Nigel Adams said “there may be public interest considerations” that “warrant further investigation”. A separate ‘minded to’ letter was sent to DMGT and JPI, inviting them to respond by today.
Adams referred to section 58 of the Enterprise Act 2002, which states the need for “a sufficient plurality of views in newspapers in each market for newspapers in the United Kingdom or a part of the United Kingdom”.
He added: “It is important to note that the secretary of state has not taken a final decision on intervention at this stage. In line with the statutory guidance on media mergers, the ‘minded to’ letter invites further representations in writing from the parties and gives them until 13 January to respond.
“The secretary of state plans to make her final decision, which needs to be made on a quasi-judicial basis, on whether to issue an intervention notice no later than week commencing 20 January.
“If the secretary of state decides to issue an intervention notice, the next stage would be for Ofcom to assess and report to the secretary of state on the public interest concerns and for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to assess and report to her on whether a relevant merger situation has been created and any impact this may have on competition.
“Following these reports, the secretary of state would need to decide whether to refer the matter for a more detailed investigation by the CMA under section 45 of the Enterprise Act 2002.”
The Competition Markets Authority (CMA) had last month already served an initial enforcement order on DMGT, preventing it from integrating the i with its other titles until the regulator completes its investigations.
JPI had been negotiating the sale of the i and its regional titles since July. DMGT was invited to bid for the newspaper and website in September while Reach withdrew its bid for JPI’s assets in November.