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13 April 2018

NMA Urges Smiths News to Reconsider ‘Massive Fee Increases’ For Independent Publishers  

Threats by Smiths News to impose massive fee increases of up to 167 per cent upon small independent newspaper publishers have come at the worst possible time for the local media sector and should be reconsidered, News Media Association chairman David Dinsmore has warned.    

In a letter to Smiths News senior business manager Gavin Fraser this week, David said the NMA was “very concerned” to learn that the wholesale distributor had been threatening to stop distributing the titles unless they agreed to the new terms.

David said: “This demand comes at the worst possible time for local newspapers, particularly the smaller, family-owned, independent weekly publishers which Smiths News appears to be targeting. You may be aware that a number of local newspapers have been forced to close or sell in the past two years.

“All local publishers have had to cut costs in every part of the business to remain viable and provide their communities with the local journalism on which they rely.

He added: “We are very concerned to learn that Smiths News has been threatening to impose massive fee increases of more than 50 per cent - and even 167 per cent in one case – on some of our smallest local members. Unless they agree to the new terms, you say you will no longer distribute their titles.

“Smiths News is often the monopoly wholesale distributor in their areas so they have nowhere else to turn. In these challenging times for local newspapers, the sort of price increases you are seeking could easily put them out of business.

“The Prime Minister recently announced that the Government was launching a review into press sustainability, with a particular focus on local journalism. She said: “A free press is one of the foundations on which our democracy is built and it must be preserved.” 

“The Cairncross Review panel, which a number of our members have been invited to join, will look at the overall health of the national and local press and the challenges it faces, including threats to stop the distribution of local newspapers so that readers will no longer be able to obtain their local paper.

“As chairman of the NMA, I welcomed the Government’s review which acknowledges the importance of journalism in a democratic society, the vital role that the press takes in holding the powerful to account and producing verified news which informs the public.

“I said that viable business models must be found that ensure a wide variety of media are able to have a long and healthy future. Through digital platforms, news content is more widely consumed than ever before but the revenues to sustain the investment in that quality content are challenged. That’s why this review on a sustainable future is very welcome.

“We urge you to reconsider the new commercial terms which Smiths News is seeking to impose in light of the threat which these pose to the sustainability of one of the cornerstones of our local democracy.”