Pressure for inquiry on newspaper prices

ALL-PARTY pressure for an Office of Fair Trading investigation into 'predatory pricing' by Rupert Murdoch's News International group intensified yesterday.

Peter Bottomley MP, vice- chairman of the Conservative back-bench Media Committee, joined Shadow Industry Secretary Robin Cook and Matthew Taylor, Liberal Democrats' chairman of campaigns, in the call to OFT Director-General Sir Bryan Carsberg to rule on the broadsheet price-cutting that has prompted fears of newspaper closures.

Labour is also proposing an inquiry by the Commons Select Committee on Trade and Industry into newspaper pricing, competition and subsidy, with a 'quickie' report before parliament goes into recess next month.

Mr Cook said the News International price war was clearly aimed at driving competitors out of business, and he urged Sir Bryan to investigate. 'He (Murdoch) is able to cut prices only because of his profits from other interests. We are now faced with blatant predatory pricing.'

Mr Taylor, MP for Truro, added: 'There is an urgent need for the OFT to step in before the choice of quality newspapers in this country is cut to those in the hands of media magnates.'

Mr Bottomley, MP for Eltham, said:'Sir Brian said previously that there was a fine line which he did not then think had been crossed. If he looks again, I think he will notice that it has been.

'It is not for me to say which newspapers should live or die, but I do believe that people in parliament shoud try to make sure that the usual rules apply. Some would say that for too long some individuals have had their own way, breaking every rule under the sun.'

Subsidies on the scale required to sell the Times for 20p per copy threatened 'the destruction of the British newspaper industry as we know it'. A three-week inquiry by the OFT would establish whether there was any commercial logic in the price-cutting 'other than driving the competition from the market place'.

Mr Taylor said: 'It looks like a deliberate policy to force competitors out of the market - which cannot be good for democracy.

'If nobody else will act, the Government must. Having allowed Murdoch to take over the greater part of the British print media, they cannot allow him to close down the rest.'

News International cut the price of the Times from 50p to 30p last September, increasing sales by 28 per cent. Last

Thursday, the price was cut again to 20p after the Daily Telegraph slashed its price to 30p. Both groups are also operating cut-price offers on weekend titles.

When the price wars began last autumn, Mr Cook raised the issue with the OFT, and Sir Bryan said that a line could be drawn between vigorous competition and predatory price competition. He ruled that the competition was fair.

Labour also intends to pursue the controversy through the Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee. Derek Fatchett MP, Opposition spokesman on industry, said: 'This is a matter of profound importance to our democracy.

'It will be extremely useful if the DTI Select Committee could undertake a quick report on newspaper pricing, competition and subsidy. We should look at the issue of cross-

subsidy from one part of an organisation to another, especially when one part is clearly not a newspaper activity. Profits have been used to subsidise a no- profit making newspaper.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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 General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'