Wednesday, August 03, 2011


As mentioned earlier, the time to make comments to the Office of Fair Trading concerning KM Group's submission to acquire Northcliffe Media's Kent newspapers is running out. You have until Monday 8th August.

It seems rather surprising and disturbing that the counties politicians have yet to comment but who would report it anyway. KM Group like the minimalist Thanet Extra and Northcliffe Media newspapers such as the Isle of Thanet Gazette/Times etc. are hardly going to wish to stir things up. Kent on Sunday stands to gain so their hardly going whip up a storm.

It's unfortunate BBC South East and BBC Radio Kent have not made this the subject of public discussion, I spoke to a Radio Kent manager who suggested I send him a paragraph, I didn't have the energy, what would be the point.

KM Group's take over of Northcliffe Media's Papers would be similar at a regional level to Murdoch taking over every national newspaper with the exception of say the Daily Express.

Anyway here are the key points of the likely outcome in my opinion if the Office of Fair Trading nod this deal through.
  • NEWSPAPERS CLOSED – Is it likely KM Group will keep the Gazette and Times in Thanet as well as the Thanet Extra or indeed others across Kent.
  • LOCAL NEWS POORER COVERAGE – The normal competitive process of reporting will cease. Particularly at district level.
  • MINMAL COMPETITION  - Archant Media Group who produce Kent on Sunday, do not currently as I understand produce local district newspapers as in print form. Their papers like "yourthanet" exist purely in "e" format so lack the appeal of hard copy papers like the Gazette or Extra which you can browse news as well adverts Homes, Cars and of course Classifieds.
  • HIGHER ADVERTISING COSTS – Businesses aren't charities and neither is the KM Group unrestrained by adequate competition what choice will business have when advertising rates rise.
  • PUBLIC INTEREST – Local Democracy will be harmed as its almost inevitably journalists will be sacked and consequently resources wont exist to scrutinise local government.
  • MEDIA MARKET SHARE – KM Group will if this deal goes through have a massive strangle hold on media with newsprint and radio, which cannot be in the public interest however well intentioned they might be.
The process of the Office of Fair Trading's deliberations into the consequences of this proposed takeover, are unfortunately not as open as would be desirable due to commercial confidentiality, so as far as the public interest is concerned its only possible to guess at KM's plans.

I suggest if you concur with my concerns that you mention it to those you know and also keep the Office of Fair Trading by contacting Raúl Nieto Fax: 020 7211 8916.

PS Companies and organisation are being consulted by the OFT about KM's bid and therefore may be unable to comment or feel its not in their interest to do so.


  1. Fair points and in an ideal world I would agree with you, but in reality, if the proposed takeover doesn't happen, the Gazette and Times will probably disappear anyway. Their sales figures are through the floor, which is why they are giving away advertising space, and if they were doing well, the situation would never have arisen in the first place. From a personal view, if it means no more "sexed-up" stories and a bit more responsible journalism, then I'm all for it. I know people in Dover who still won't read the Dover Express (a sister paper of the Gazette and Times) because of their approach on the miner's strike, and that was 30 years ago.

  2. Slightly off-topic Tony, but the power of FOI and the intrepid local news sleuths is gaining ground ;-)

  3. Agree with Anonymous here. And Tony, you have regularly complained that local newspapers don't cover the activities of local councils and other parts of the public sector adequately or robustly enough - would you prefer these titles to whither on the vine with no investment or have some kind of a future with a company that whatever else you might say about it is at least committed to editorial integrity and doing a proper job?

  4. Anon 3 40 the KM Group have not given any view or undertaking to which the public are privy. I don't doubt KM strive to produce a quality product.

    However my understanding is this and I doubt anyone could contest it, as far as Thanet is concerned there has been no evidence of any investment by KM Group in its existing papar the Thanet Extra, to the contrary in the last year or two I understand that editorial staff have been cut to the bone.

    Despite your robust defense of KM standards, its clear to me that reporters at the Gazette and Thanet Times have a superior record on reporting Thanet District Council without a doubt.

    If the Gazette or Times were to wither (presumably with the rest of Northcliffe Media) then KM Group could up its current game with the KM Thanet Extra and do a better job than is currently the case (That is invest in journalism)

  5. I have owned business in the Thanet area since 1960, having dealt with both companys for many years i am Happy for Km to take over all the newspapers in the area, they are a very professional company and have worked together with my business in the down turn, unlike the Thanet Gazette and Times.

  6. Having worked in what was Fleet Street and then after a DFL move to Ramsgate, downsizing to the KM Group. I can say, without any fear of contradiction or knock on the door from men in black suits, that the only local / regional newspapers of any value to the the public are the Evening Standard and the MEN in Manchester. The KM titles are piss-poor in terms of reporting values (as are the other local rags) and are afraid of upsetting the local and national Masonry. Ed Boorman (whose daughter rruns the KM) was the Lord Luffty of Kent, or some other buffoonish title! Expect nothing. All local newspapers are dead in the water.

  7. Having worked in what was Fleet Street and then after a DFL move to Ramsgate, downsizing to the KM Group. I can say, without any fear of contradiction or knock on the door from men in black suits, that the only local / regional newspapers of any value to the the public are the Evening Standard and the MEN in Manchester. The KM titles are piss-poor in terms of reporting values (as are the other local rags) and are afraid of upsetting the local and national Masonry. Ed Boorman (whose daughter rruns the KM) was the Lord Luffty of Kent, or some other buffoonish title! Expect nothing. All local newspapers are dead in the water.

  8. Finally, before bedtime, an obvious point must be made. Regional newspapers, especially the KM Group, had cornered the market on local advertising in terms of property, jobs and cars. 10 years ago, young companies in these areas embraced the internet. Bloated, cash rich proprietors of local titles did not see what was coming. Classified advertising has disappeared and the ridiculous attempt by the KM Group and others to convince advertisers that they are an on-line force to be reckoned with is absurd. The KM are claiming millions of page impressions a month. If so, why are they not opening up their servers to to the only industry-standard, advertising measurement tool ABCi? If you want to buy or sell a house, you go to Rightmove, want a new car? AutoTrader, a new job? get the point.

  9. Leo interesting points however I do find that although not perfect KRN do cover district politics which Kent Messenger fail miserably on in Thanet.

    Intrigued by reference to free masons particularly as I believe my criticism of free masonry being promoted at tax payer expense by Kent council resulted in an attempt to warn me off.

    My opinion is that the Masonic movement in Kent and the UK share much with say the Mafia

    Excuse the digression but Masonic influence in Kent and other places damages our society with its subversion by introducing the concept of loyalty between members beyond more important than equality and openness

  10. I'm sure you're right Tony. I'm a long way off being a conspiracy theorist but so long as decisions are influenced by funny handshakes, our claims to live in a democracy are a joke.

    We need a non-mason in the commons to introduce a private members bill making it obligatory to open up the extent of masonic membership in public life. The recent scandals that have hit the establishment would look miniscule compared to what would be unearthed.

    Would any of our local councillors like to start the ball rolling by declaring that they are not masons?

  11. I'm not a Mason and to be perfectly honest, Mason membership or Masonic interests, is not a subject that has ever come up in conversation in the time I've been a councillor.

    This is a subject/conspiracy theory that goes back to the Thanet of my youth and it's quite irrelevant to the conduct local politics today.

    Quite frankly if any councillors are Masons then that's there own private concern but the important thing to note is that any involvement with any group, interest or person, which might potentially influence a councillors decision making in any committee or council vote, must be declared on the register of interests or run the risk of committing a criminal offense under more recent legislation.

    So I think you can file the Masonic influence theory up there with Rick's favourite and oft-repeated IRA conspiracy theories.

  12. Simon, I'm always intrigued, as to whether you are a self-appointed spokesman for the council or just find it impossible not to comment on any related subject. Personally I assume its your enthuisiasm.

    Unfortunately your frequently wrong, particularly in relationship to me, so whether you are or not yourself a mason or aware of masons is frankly irrelevant.

    Just as some of your comments recently on the councils policy of discrimination against bloggers that side stepped the issue, focused on an aspect which really wasnt that contentious just plain ridiculous similar to the tried and trusted politicians technique of answering a question that hasn't been asked.

    The one consistent thing I've heard as far back as the 1970's is the assertion often made by those who claim to be Masons is that yes there were in the past "issues" but now things are above board.

    I'm sure there are councillors who are Masons and I don't doubt that they are honourable people however of two people of my aquaintence who claimed to have joined the Masons, one was quite clear of its advantage of being able to cut corners on introductions and therefore secure meetings which otherwise would have been difficult to arrange.

    Anyway I'm quite clear even if you are not Simon, a company working for and employed by Kent County Council to promote the county council took exception (hinting at legal action) to my suggestion of KCC's “promotion of Freemasonry”. A suggestion I made having seen KCC producing a film about Kent Freemasons.

    I'm not suggesting wide ranging conspiracys, I've even taken to deleting some of the more exotic and off topic comments, still sometimes I let things ride like your incredible defence of Thanet council locking doors to public meetings.

    It's not the view of a crank, if that's what you are suggesting Simon to take issue with the widely held understanding that Masons have a loyalty which is above that of all else including the law.

    As for Rick I actually believe he has a point and to my shame, I've treated with a similar distain you show me.

    What Rick discribes on the face of it, is incredible also fairly complex, and this may be what makes his posting difficult.

    Perhaps one of local papers could investigate, while they still can.

  13. Simon, as usual, misses the point. It is not Freemasonry itself that is the problem but the PERCEPTION (sorry about the shout but don't know how to underline on a BlackBerry) that membership bestows some sort of privilege. People are willing to believe conspiracies when Masons make no real effort to counter them. Wherever you go you will find folk convinced that Masonic influence has an impact on decision making. Now Simon can just ignore this perception or he can make a positive contribution by convincing the other Councillors that Freemasonry should be a declared interest. It's the secrecy that fuels the conspiracy theorists. Doubt he'll do anything because he doesn't really care.
    Oh, and I've always had some doubts about Rick's "obsession". You only need to look at history to see parallels with other "public figure in trouble" behaviour (Profumo is a good example, as is Jonathan Aitken)

  14. Any councillor who is a member of a masonic lodge is supposed to declare that in their interests documents so these can be checked online if anyone is that bothered.