Government Clears Left-Wing Takeover of Brexit-Supporting Express

WESTERHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 23: Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP and Vote Leave campaigner holds up the 'Daily Express' as he returns to his home after buying newspapers of the United Kingdom on June 23, 2016 in Westerham, England. The United Kingdom is going to the polls to decide whether …
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Culture Secretary Matt Hancock has given Reach, the owner of the left-wing Mirror newspaper, the go-ahead to take over the right-wing, Brexit-supporting Daily Express.

Mr Hancock confirmed Wednesday that he would not be referring the takeover of Northern & Shell’s UK publishing assets, which include the Express and Daily Star newspapers, to a further investigation, reports the Financial Times.

In May, the Culture Secretary has raised a Public Interest Intervention Notice to investigate whether the deal, which would give Reach the second-largest circulation in the UK, would impact on plurality of views and freedom of expression and opinion. Ofcom noted in the report published Wednesday that the merger raises no such concerns.

With regards to concerns the impact a left-wing editor would have on the editorial position of the pro-Brexit Express, Ofcom said: “Provided the editor retains the ability to determine the paper’s stance without interference from the proprietor, we do not consider that this concern is relevant to the free expression of opinion ground.”

In addition, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said they did not believe the merger raises concerns regarding a plurality of views as the publications under Reach (formerly Trinity Mirror which helped found the radical left HOPE not Hate) “target different demographic groups and differ in content and tone”.

“Today we are two successful separate news organisations, but together we will be stronger and better able to compete and adapt to the challenging conditions in which we operate,” said Reach CEO Simon Fox.

Days after the shareholder vote on the takeover in February, Daily Express editor Hugh Whittow resigned was replaced by left-wing newspaper Sunday Mirror editor Gary Jones.

In April, Jones attacked the Express‘s former editorial stance, telling MPs at a select committee that in reporting the news, some of the paper’s past front pages had been “downright offensive” and alleged that they had contributed to an “Islamophobic sentiment” in the media.

The decision by the government comes just two weeks after the Pro-Remain editor of the Mail on Sunday Geordie Greig replaced Paul Dacre at the Brexit-backing sister newspaper the Daily Mail, leaving Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun and Breitbart News the only two remaining prominent right-wing publications in the UK.

A source told The Guardian that Greig’s appointment was part of a process of “detoxifying the Daily Mail”. Dacre later warned Greig against weakening the Mail‘s support for Brexit, writing in the Spectator that he had received “countless messages from readers worried about whether the Mail will continue its support for EU withdrawal”.

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