Desmond wins ruling for afternoon paper

Londoners will get a free afternoon paper after the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) broke up an exclusive deal to distribute newspapers on the Tube.

Londoners will get a free afternoon paper after the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) broke up an exclusive deal to distribute newspapers on the Tube.

The OFT found that Associated Newspapers' sole rights to use London Underground to hand out its Metro paper was against consumers' interests.

The move followed a complaint made two years ago by Richard Desmond, the owner of the Daily Express, who wants to launch his own free newspaper. Mr Desmond has received support from Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, who has an acrimonious relationship with Associated, which also publishes the Daily Mail and London's Evening Standard.

Associated was awarded a contract five years ago by London Underground giving it sole rights to distribute newspapers on the Tube until 2010. It launched the Metro, which is left in stacks in the mornings at stations for commuters to pick up. The paper has proved a success and is now profitable.

In order to protect Metro, Associated offered to give up its rights to the afternoons but keep exclusivity for the mornings, a deal the competition watchdog accepted yesterday.

Mr Livingstone will now offer a contract to other publishers who want to take the afternoon slot. But he said: "The exclusivity for morning distribution has not been lifted and we will reserve our right to press for this to be removed."

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