Consumer loyalty the key to keeping a varied press: Second quarterly report of Sir Gordon Downey, the Independent's Readers' Representative

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The Independent Online
FOR A country which values a varied press, the battle for circulation by the Times and the Telegraph is a serious matter. It is difficult to see the current price war coming to an end without serious damage to at least one competitor - and possibly to all those in the field. It has reached the point where, for part of the industry, the more they sell, the more they lose. Clearly that is not a situation which will last for very long.

As Readers' Representative, I hope I speak for most readers in saying that it would be a very sad day if this newspaper were unable to flourish. Initially it was set up with a degree of idealism unusual for the industry and it has not betrayed those ideals. It has shown that it respects its readers and cares for its independence.

It is difficult to argue that a newspaper should be given outside protection. As long as there is a free press, with multiple titles, newspapers are likely to be treated as a commodity like any other: they have got to pay their way.

So readers have a choice. Clearly it is tempting to opt for a cut-price alternative. Indeed, if they see nothing special about the Independent, that is the rational thing for them to do.

But if they want the Independent to continue in something like its present form they will have to do their bit to make it possible. Hostilities may not last that long but the paper now depends heavily on the loyalty of its readers for the duration.