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How will the closure of the News of the World affect the British press?

How will the closure of the News of the World affect the British press?

"Thank you & goodbye", read the headline of the last edition of News of the World, published yesterday. The newspaper quit its operations after a series of revelations, most glaring being the paper's involvement in the hacking of the voice mail of a disappeared 13-year-old girl.

The Sunday paper's closure was announced only four days earlier, and although the British media industry is still recovering from the move, it seems likely that it will be profoundly affected, in one way or the other, by current circumstances.

Last week, the British Prime Minister David Cameron called for the replacement of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), which he said had failed to act sufficiently in the phone hacking affair, with a new body. The Guardian's Roy Greenslade discussed what this could mean in practice, speculating that the end result would most probably be a body with a new name and staff, but a very similar function to the PCC.

As for British newspapers, the consequences could be significant. News of the World had a circulation of 2.6 million (April 2011) and its sales formed more than a quarter of the total sales of Sunday newspapers. The Guardian reported that NoW's annual ad revenues were at £38 million, which is now likely to go to other media. Most probably not all of the new recipients will be print newspapers, meaning that the outcome would see the overall print sector worse off.

According to the Guardian, the Sunday newspaper model has been at a fragile state for some time now, as the costs of running Sunday titles is significantly higher than at daily papers. NoW's closure will probably exacerbate already existing issues, such as rapidly declining sales figures. "Not all Sundays are loss-making, of course, but those that aren't are making far less money than they were four years ago, and the market is showing no signs of improvement," said Rob Lynam, head of press and media agency MEC.

As NoW's Sunday sales amounted up to 27 percent of total Sunday sales, other papers will surely make a move to attract some of that readership. To fill the gap left by the paper, some have speculated that the Sun, another News International paper, would launch a Sunday edition. Although Greenslade found the idea unlikely, the fact that NoW's magazine supplement found a new home at the Sun, as reported by PaidContent, would also suggest this. Also News of the World itself may reappear to compete for its old readers: the Independent reported on a plan to revive the title as a "responsible investigative newspaper" - an idea that sounds somewhat far-fetched, given the conditions surrounding the paper's closure.

If the British media industry is being rocked heavily by the scandal, the waves hitting News International, and by extension News Corporation, are even higher. The media company's attempt to take over BskyB is now met with strong resistance, as the Guardian reported both Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband, the leaders of Liberal Democrats and Labour respectively, calling for Rupert Murdoch to drop the bid. It remains to be seen whether legal proceedings around NoW could reach the corporation. According to the Daily Telegraph, James Murdoch, the chairman of News International, could end up prosecuted. But Felix Salmon said that although News International is currently the target of intense scrutiny, the corporation itself is extremely unlikely to be convicted of any crime.

BBC's Paul Mason discussed the extensive implications the scandal has, shaking Murdoch's media empire as well as Britain's political system and police.

Sources: The Guardian (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), PaidContent, the Daily Telegraph, Felix Salmon, BBC


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Author

Teemu Henriksson

Date

2011-07-11 18:00

The World Editors Forum is the organization within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (www.editorsweblog.org), launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.


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