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25 June 2020

FT: News Publishers Seek Competition Waiver For UK Print Distribution

News publishers have asked the Government to waive competition rules so the industry can discuss contingency plans for Britain’s newspaper supply chain, the FT reported yesterday.

Publishers want to start discussing plans to keep the newspaper supply chain running as well as options to sustain the system in the years ahead. But without Ministers intervening to provide some “safe harbour” protection, such talks fall foul of rules against anti-competitive collusion.

“Competition law is an area of concern. This sector faces fundamental challenges,” said David Newell, News Media Association chief executive. “To make the necessary changes, we have to have some form of safe harbour provision to allow the industry to come together to discuss the supply chain.”

“To rationalise [the supply chain] there needs to be a dialogue,” he added. “It is hard to have a dialogue given the way UK competition law operates.”

Potential points of discussion include finding alternative distributors and other continuity measures in an emergency. More long-term options include delivering more newspapers directly from print sites to retailers and customers, rather than via wholesale distribution centres, the FT reported.

A Government spokesperson said it engaged with all sectors “including newspapers”. “We recognise that economic conditions continue to be challenging and we are committed to supporting the sector’s economic recovery,” they said.