Durkan concerned at JP job cut plans

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SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has co-sponsored a parliamentary motion at Westminster (signed by almost 50 MPs) expressing his concern over proposed editorial job cuts at Johnston Press - the owner of the Londonderry Sentinel, News Letter and Derry Journal.

The motion is currently being supported by several DUP MPs, including Gregory Campbell, Gavin Robinson, Sammy Wilson and Jim Shannon, as well as by Mr Durkan’s colleague Margaret Ritchie.

Mr Durkan called on the Government to produce a coherent strategy for defending local journalism.

He said: “I am deeply concerned by the recent announcement that Johnston Press, which publishes titles including the Derry Journal and Londonderry Sentinel, is to cull almost 100 editorial posts throughout their operations in Britain and Ireland.

“Year-on-year cuts in jobs and closure of newspaper titles throughout the UK have resulted in the loss of 5,000 editorial roles in local and regional press, and the closure of more than 150 newspapers since March 2011.

“Local and regional news coverage is an essential feature of civic life and a healthy democracy.

“I am therefore calling for active government intervention to prevent the destruction of these vital community assets and to establish a short, sharp inquiry to produce a coherent strategy for defending local journalism.”

In a trading update in January, JP confirmed it was considering selling a number of assets as part of a group-wide review.

In a statement it said: “The Group announced an internal management restructuring on 1 December 2015, removing a layer of regional management. This will enable the Group to prioritise investment in growth markets while delivering a consistent advertising solution to both National and SME display advertisers across the portfolio. The alignment of editorial under a single Editor in Chief, will also ensure content sharing is optimised and a clear consistent approach to delivering content to audiences online, on mobile, via social media and in print.

“As part of the Group’s portfolio review, a number of brands have been identified that are not part of its long-term future, as they fall outside its selected markets, do not match the audience focus, or do not offer the levels of digital growth sought by the Group. A process has been initiated to explore the sale of these assets to identified parties.

“If the disposal process is successful in realising appropriate value for the assets, proceeds will be used to fund on-going investment in preferred markets and to further deleverage the Group.”