[Sinn Fein]

14 July 1998

Doherty voices concern at Mirror takeover

Sinn Fein Vice President and Assembly member for West Tyrone Pat Doherty today voiced his concern at the takeover by the Mirror Group of the Derry Journal, Donegal Democrat and Donegal People's Press. Mr. Doherty questioned whether the Mirror Group would show a real commitment - political, social and economic, to the people of Donegal and Derry or would they be motivated solely by the pursuit of profit.

Mr. Doherty said:

``The takeover by the Mirror Group of the Derry Journal, Donegal Democrat and Donegal People's Press is a matter of grave concern for people throughout Donegal and Derry. People are now worried about the long term survival of the three newspapers and potential changes to their content.

``Local newspapers play an essential role, particularly in rural communities, of informing people both at home and abroad, not just of important political and social events but also the happenings of everyday life. It many ways they perform a public service which is based on the needs of the community rather than one based solely on pursuit of profit.

``It is this type of direct involvement which informs the stories that are covered and the editorial content of the papers. It is questionable whether a company which is not locally based would continue to support this same type of newspaper.

``Furthermore as newspapers covering border communities, the Derry Journal, Donegal Democrat and Donegal People's Press, have taken a keen interest in the development of the peace process. As such there is an obvious concern at the essentially Unionist position which has been adopted by the Mirror Group in recent years.

``The purchase of these newspapers is part of the Mirror Groups expressed wish to expand its ``regional interests'', a term which they use to include both Donegal and Derry.

``As a London based company the Mirror Group and its shareholders make decisions based on profit, therefore the continued success or failure of local papers will be influenced by the success or failure of the overall group. A downturn for the Group could see local newspapers sold on to another company.

``With their purchase by the Mirror Group the Derry Journal, Donegal Democrat and Donegal People's Press, will soon lose their essentially local quality and will become just another area of profit for what is an already large company.

``Local newspapers perform a vital function not easily replicated by large companies. If local newspapers continue to be bought out by large media groups the era of the small, independent newspaper will soon be over. It is a pity that this is occurring in Donegal and Derry without any local debate taking place.''

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