Labour calls on ministers to end paper price war

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The Independent Online
LABOUR shadow ministers yesterday intensified pressure on the Government to halt the price war in the quality newspaper market, writes Marianne Macdonald.

Marjorie Mowlam, shadow Heritage Secretary, wrote to Peter Brooke, her government counterpart, warning that the spiral of price cuts would destroy choice and weaken democracy. She claimed the Heritage Department had been 'frozen into inactivity' for fear of alienating Rupert Murdoch, the media baron who owns the Times, which has led the cuts.

Labour and the Independent are calling for an investigation by the Office of Fair Trading, saying that the reduction in the Times' cover price to 20p is predatory pricing with the intention of forcing rivals out of the market.

'Rupert Murdoch is winning a circulation war by running British newspapers at a loss funded from overseas assets,' Ms Mowlam told Mr Brooke. 'The inevitable outcome, unless action is taken, is that Murdoch will weaken his British competitors to the point where he will dominate the market.'

The shadow consumer minister, Nigel Griffiths, said in a speech to the Institute of Trading Standards Administration: 'I want the inquiry now, before the only choice the British public has is to read the Sun or the Times.'

Last October, Sir Bryan Carsberg, director-general of the OFT, decided against a formal inquiry into the Times' price cut. He said it was not predatory but a commercial decision.

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