The price war and your newspaper

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The Independent Online
TODAY the Independent is on sale at 20p. On a morning when the price war between national newspapers has reached a new pitch in intensity, we want to be sure that our loyal readers hear our voice. Last night the Telegraph announced it was cutting its Monday to Friday price from 48p to 30p. This is a response to the price-cutting tactics adopted by Rupert Murdoch's Times last August.

When Mr Murdoch made his decision to drop to 30p, the Times was already making substantial losses, and selling only a few thousand copies a day more than the Independent, which was breaking even. We argued then that the Times's move would make commercial sense only if we were driven out of the market. In that, Mr Murdoch has failed. We had strong shareholders in the shape of La Repubblica of Italy and El Pais of Spain, who have since been joined by the Mirror Group and also by the Irish Independent group. Without this backing, the Independent and its sister newspaper, the Independent on Sunday, would not have survived. As it is, we remain in business, we have improved our national distribution, upgraded our printing in South-east England, introduced a new London section for readers within the M25, and stabilised our circulation.

But Mr Murdoch's predatory pricing policy was not aimed only at the Independent. It has also taken a substantial toll of the Daily Telegraph's circulation. Last month, for the first time since the 1950s, it dropped below one million. Unlike the Times, the Daily Telegraph has been a highly profitable newspaper. Its proprietor, Conrad Black, could have resisted Mr Murdoch's attack, but instead he decided last night to join him in attempting to carve up the daily broadsheet market for their joint benefit.

Our board of directors must decide what, in these new circumstances, is the appropriate long-term pricing policy for the Independent - 20p is, admittedly, a one-day wonder. But what we can say today with confidence is the following:

Our shareholders will go on investing in a continuous programme of developing and improving both Independent titles;

We remain dedicated to journalism of the highest quality and integrity. Readers will understand that this can never be cheap;

We will continue to be an independent newspaper, with a unique commitment to liberal values.