Jamaican press group takes over 'The Voice' of black community

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The Independent Online

The newspaper aimed at Britain's black community, The Voice, has been bought by Jamaica's largest newspaper group, it was announced yesterday.

Val McCalla, a Jamaican-born accountant and former RAF pilot, began the newspaper at the 1982 Notting Hill Carnival. It became a leading advocate for Britain's large black and Afro-Caribbean community. Mr McCalla's wife, Linda, and two sons, Michael and David, took it over following his death, aged 58, from a liver illness in 2002.

The newspaper was sold on Tuesday to The Gleaner Company, which owns the Daily Gleaner, Sunday Gleaner and Star newspapers in Jamaica.

The Gleaner Company's chairman, Oliver Clarke, declined to divulge the exact amount it had paid, but said the company would spend between £3m and £4m on the acquisition and refinancing of The Voice, its largest investment to date.

"We think The Voice has a great name in England," Mr Clarke said. "It's part of our general move to develop newspapers and other publications for a younger market and people of Caribbean descent."

Circulation of the London-based tabloid is said to be around 20,000 per week. In the past decade, declining advertising revenue, increased competition and accounting problems have hurt its readership figures.

Mr Clarke said he would seek to resolve the newspaper's financial woes through refinancing, but didn't plan any major editorial changes.

The Gleaner Company's UK director, John Hudson, said the company had made the McCalla family an offer last year that they had rejected, but the family subsequently made an approach in February to see if the company wanted to resume negotiations.

Speaking of any new direction the paper might take, Mr Hudson said: "We have to look and see what the market dictates and look at maybe some market research on it.

The Gleaner Company owns eight publications outside Jamaica, including two each in Canada and the United States.

The Voice launched the careers of the television interviewer Martin Bashir and the novelist Diran Adebayo.