JOURNALISM: PROOF THAT COVID-LINKED STORIES DO NOT SELL NEWSPAPERS

By Hamish Mackay in the Scottish Review

According to the latest ABC statistics, the rest of the UK’s national newspapers are back above the circulations of their worst COVID-19 slump. Most paid-for titles were able to keep their April circulations similar to March, with a drop of 1% the largest nationally, and of 2% at Scotland’s Sunday Mail – the biggest overall, according to the Scottish Review.

The Sunday Mail’s circulation was down year-on-year by an appreciable 6% to 85,450 copies. Significantly, and worryingly for Dundee-based DC Thomson Media, The Sunday Post was down year-on-year by 11% to 65,563 copies. Scotland’s Daily Record fell by 1% year-on-year to 86,253.

These three Scottish titles are the only ones being returned by ABC as the remainder of our Scottish-based newspapers, including the Dumbarton Lennox Herald, whose sales have dropped so low that they  don’t wish to have their circulations made public.

The UK Government’s Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, has written to the Commissioner of Public Appointments saying he wants a second competition for the £142,500-a-year role of chair of media regulator Ofcom. According to Press Gazette: ‘Former Daily Mail editor and vocal BBC critic, Paul Dacre, was reportedly [Prime Minister] Boris Johnson’s preferred choice during the initial interviews but rejected by the assessment panel’.

Julian Knight, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said he would be writing to Dowden to seek assurances that previous candidates for the role did not reapply. The Financial Times has reported that Dacre, who edited the Daily Mail with a rod of iron for 26 years, is expected to stay in the contest.

Knight pointed out: ‘This is not the first occasion on which this committee has raised concerns about the appointments process within the remit of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. As a result of this unnecessary delay, the communications regulator finds itself without a chair at what could not be a more critical time as the government prepares to legislate against online harms’.

Ofcom is expected to gain responsibility for regulating social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and TikTok under forthcoming online harms legislation.

The Thomson Family, which owns the Dundee-headquartered publishing company which encompasses newspapers, magazines and television stations, are 130th in the UK in the Sunday Times Rich List 2021 with an estimated fortune of £1.271 billion – down £136 million on 2020. Others featured on the list include the Barclay Family (Daily and Sunday Telegraph) at No 28 with £6 billion – down £1 billion from 2020; Jean-Francois Decaux and Family at No 68 at £2.47 billion (media interests unknown); Mike Danson at No 119 on £1.408 billion (New Statesman); Viscount Rothermere and Family at No 160 on £1.08 billion (Daily Mail General Trust); and Sir Evelyn and Lady de Rothschild at No 225 at £702 million (Reuters News Services).

Canada-based Lord (David) Thomson of Fleet, whose family at one time owned STV, Thomson Regional Newspapers (which included The Press and Journal (P&J), Newcastle Journal, and Belfast Telegraph), The Scotsman Publications, The Times and the Sunday Times, and now runs Thomson Reuters, features at No 36 in the Sunday Times’s 50 Richest In The World list with an estimated fortune of £30.3 billion. Incidentally, there are a record 171 billionaires in the UK with a combined wealth of £597.269 billion – up £106.582 billion on 2020.

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