Thursday, April 17, 2008

Gannett's UK Media Subsidiary & Post-1999 Media Monopolization Activity

Since 1999, the McLean, Virginia-based Gannett Company media conglomerate also has begun to exercise a more powerful special interest in the world of UK newspaper publishing across the Atlantic Ocean. Its wholly-owned subsidiary in the Britain, Gannett U.K. Limited, acquired 11 daily newspapers in England with a combined circulation of approximately 460,000, for example, after Gannett purchased one of the largest regional newspaper publishers in England, Newsquest plc., in 1999. Then in the following year, the eighth-largest regional newspaper publisher in the UK, Newscom, was purchased by Gannett, giving the U.S. media conglomerate control over another four daily UK newspapers.

After Gannett U.K. Limited turned Newscom into a division of Newsquest, Gannett’s Newsquest became the second largest regional newspaper company in the United Kingdom. And when Gannett’s Newsquest division purchased SMG Publishing in March of 2003, three Scottish regional newspapers, The Herald, The Sunday Herald and the Evening Times were also added to the Gannett media conglomerate’s stable of UK newspapers.

Within the United States, the Gannet media conglomerate continued to purchase more U.S. daily newspapers after 1999. In 2000, for example, Gannett acquired 19 daily newspapers in Wisconsin, Ohio, Louisiana, Maryland and Utah from the Thomson Newspapers Inc. chain, as well as the Arizona Republic and the Indianapolis Star from Central Newspapers Inc., at a cost of $4.5 billion.

Yet (although you’d never know it from watching the PBS news program of Gannett’s old business associates) there are many people in the United States and the UK who, historically, have not thought that USA Today was worth losing a half-billion dollars over—or that the cause of economic and political democratization in the United States and the UK was helped by the Gannett media conglomerate monopolizing so much newspaper publishing power around the United States and in the United Kingdom.

In his 1980s book The Media Monopoly, Ben Bagdikian, for example, observed:

“Gannett Company, Inc. is an outstanding contemporary performer of the ancient rite of creating self-serving myths, of committing acts of greed and exploitation but describing them through its own machinery as heroic epics. In real life Gannett has violated laws, doctrines of free enterprise and journalistic ideals of truthfulness”.

Bagdikian also noted that chains like Gannett are able to control the editorial policy of their various newspapers by hiring and firing their local editors and local publishers, controlling their newspapers’ budgets and transferring the bank deposits of local papers, beyond daily operational needs, to the parent company’s home office bank account.

The Media Monopoly book also observed that “as the chain mushroomed in the 1970s, complaints of monopolistic arrogance threatened Gannett’s image.”

Next: Gannett’s Historic Brokaw And Carter Connection

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