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A merger in all but name at News UK

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A merger in all but name at news UK

Are The Times and Sunday Times merging?

Definitely not. They remain editorially fiercely independent. Just ask the editors, they’ll tell you that.

When Rupert Murdoch bought the titles, the government insisted on legal restraints which included the need for them to have separate editorial teams, since they were, and indeed are, such key parts of British public life.

Cracks in that commitment have been appearing for years. Two years ago News UK was given approval to at least share resources, paving the way “for journalists to work across both titles and for potential job cuts”, the Guardian reported at the time.

Last week a letter from the editors – John Witherow and Emma Tucker – informed staff that:

“We have recently made an application to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to start discussions for the release of the undertakings placed on The Times and The Sunday Times in 1981. 

The undertakings were put in place when News acquired both titles, and were created at that time to address questions relating to ownership. 

Forty years on, in a far more complex digital environment, we believe the undertakings are no longer relevant. They place an unnecessary burden on our titles, as well as creating unfair restrictions to innovation.”

Un-huh. Innovation as code for cost cuts is a new one, I quite like it.

None of this is a huge shock to staff, at least not those who walk around with their eyes open.

Times hacks have been greeting their opposite number at the Sunday with a jovial, are they going to sack me or you? – for ages.

In some ways, this is all perfectly fair enough. There is nothing much wrong with the papers sharing as many resources as possible in the name of keeping them going.

But it’s a painful process, even if inevitable.

Few proprietors other than Murdoch would have borne the losses made by the papers over the years, and News UK is plainly preparing for when he is no longer around.

Rumours about his health have surfaced over the years and turned out to be false, but people who have seen him lately say he doesn’t look well. He is 90, after all.So, it does now seem inevitable that before long the titles will employ fewer journalists, perhaps far fewer, which means some very talented people will be looking for work.

Perhaps they will all go to Bloomberg.

Press release of the day

How will people cope with the end of furlough? This from money app Yolt says one in seven worry how they will pay household bills.

“It is likely that the full financial impact of the pandemic won’t be felt until government support is fully removed,” we read.

Really big issue.

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