Stephen Glover: Who would want to buy The Times?

Media Studies: The Times has been shedding sales faster than its rivals

There are rumours flying around that in return for being allowed to buy the 61 per cent of BSkyB he does not already own, Rupert Murdoch will be required to sell The Times and Sunday Times. Dan Sabbagh, "head of media and technology" at The Guardian, even suggests that prominent Lib Dems want to get their hands on The Times to make it a kind of in-house newspaper. The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, who will have to make the final decision about the BSkyB bid, is, of course, a leading Lib Dem.

Can any of these rumours be remotely true? It certainly seems plausible that Mr Murdoch might be required to give up some of his newspaper interests in return for 100 per cent of the satellite broadcaster. He is unlikely to want to part with the still profitable Sun and News of the World on any terms, so that would leave The Times and The Sunday Times lying on the table. The irony is that although Rupert Murdoch would almost certainly be reluctant to offload these titles, which he has owned for very nearly 30 years, his son, James, who runs the British operation, might be a lot less upset.

This is because the two papers lost £87.7m between them in the year to 28 June 2009, the last period for which we have figures. These losses will have diminished over the past 18 months as a result of cost cutting and increased advertising revenues. Even so, the two newspapers are not exactly the buy of the century. The days when The Sunday Times made a profit of a million pounds a week are long gone, and most unlikely ever to return.

As for The Times, which presumably accounts for the bulk of the losses, it has been shedding sales faster than its rivals – down 17.21 per cent last month year-on-year to a daily average of 466,311, which is not much more than half its best-ever circulation, in the mid-1990s, at the height of the price war which it began. The paper, along with its Sunday stablemate, now charges for internet access, but at best this will only be bringing in small change.

So one can see why it might not break James Murdoch's heart to get rid of these titles, the more so since he has less affection for newspapers than his father. The question is why anyone would want to buy them when The Times is almost certain to lose money for as far as the eye can see. Indeed, I doubt whether it has been profitable since Rupert Murdoch acquired it.

Any idea of a Lib Dem sugar daddy snapping up the papers seems far- fetched. There probably isn't one with deep enough pockets. It is equally difficult to think of any company that might be rich enough to take on responsibilities of this sort. Some suggest that the Mail group might be interested but, although I have no inside information, I find this difficult to believe.

It is true that the Daily Mail's founder, Lord Northcliffe, once owned The Times, and Vere Rothermere, father of the present proprietor, expressed an interest in The Sunday Times before Rupert Murdoch bought it. But a company responsible to its shareholders, which not long ago got the then heavily loss-making London Evening Standard off its books, is surely unlikely to rush into buying another loss-making title. Besides, the Mail group might be considered by the competition authorities already too dominant.

So it is difficult to make even a shortlist of potential suitors. The truth is that for the most part The Times has been fortunate to have Rupert Murdoch as its proprietor for three decades. He has admittedly dumbed down the paper but he has kept on funding its losses to the tune of tens – no, hundreds – of millions of pounds without receiving many thanks. It and its Sunday sibling have had a safe haven for 30 years. I would not be completely confidant about The Times's long-term future were Vince Cable to force its sale.







Miliband's man must woo the right



Last week I offered Ed Miliband some free advice, which he appears not to have taken. The Labour leader has appointed Tom Baldwin, a journalist on The Times, as his head of communications. My advice was that Mr Miliband should appoint someone who could persuade centre-right papers that the Labour Party has not swung violently to the Left, as well as exploit their disenchantment with the Coalition. It is true that in making Bob Roberts, the Daily Mirror's political editor, his director of news, Mr Miliband has found a popular figure able to get on with Tory journalists. But Mr Baldwin, who will be more senior, appears to dislike the Tory Press as much as it dislikes him.

His friend and predecessor Alastair Campbell is admittedly also no great lover of Tories, and probably a bit of a class warrior. But that is the Campbell we know now. The man who served as Tony Blair's director of communications during the opposition years was adept at buttering up right-wing editors and columnists. The largely successful strategy was to earn the support, or at any rate the sympathy, of right-wing newspapers.

Mr Baldwin is in no position to do the same thing even if he wanted to. Though married to an heiress, and living in an expensive pile in Highbury Fields in North London, he is said to dislike Tories and Tory newspapers. The feelings about Mr Baldwin may be judged by a two-page spread in Saturday's Daily Mail, which portrayed him as a "coke-snorting socialist" – an allegation that first surfaced in a book by Lord Ashcroft five years ago and to which he has never responded. It was not very clever of Mr Miliband to appoint such a divisive figure.

s.glover@independent.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Database Executive - Leading Events Marketing Company - London

£23000 - £25000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Databas...

Recruitment Genius: Publishing Assistant

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before