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Warning of 'death of journalism'

17 April 09 17:31 GMT

The UK will witness the "death of journalism as we know it" unless the rules on media mergers are changed, a senior industry leader has warned

Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey said news aggregators such as Google took advertising sales that would otherwise go to newspaper sites.

Leaving merger rules intact would result in "out-of-date regulations but nothing left to regulate," she added.

Newspapers must consolidate to survive, she told the Digital Britain summit.

'Super-dominant'

Trinity Mirror, which publishes the Daily Mirror, the Daily Record and the People as well as 150 regional titles, has closed and restructured offices across the country in the face of dwindling advertising revenue.

According to the BBC's Nick Higham, who was chairing the summit at the British Library in London, around 60 local newspapers in the UK have closed in the past 12 months.

A government-commissioned report by former GMG Radio chief executive John Myers has recommended relaxing the rules governing mergers so that local radio and newspapers can be owned by the same company.

Ms Bailey told the conference that the sector had adapted to the digital age by rationalising newsrooms and training editorial staff in online journalism.

"What we are asking for is a 21st Century merger regime to suit a 21st Century media," she said.

"The old definition of print markets and concerns about dominant positions simply don't apply."

She insisted that the sector did not want government handouts, but a level playing field with digital rivals.

The current merger regime was "not fit for purpose", she said, because it did not take into account the likes of Google and Yahoo.

"If the pressures of this recession put local newspapers out of business, think very hard about what we will be left with when we do emerge the other side," she added.

"Super-dominant digital players like Google and the death of journalism as we know it."

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham told the summit that communities were at risk of becoming disenfranchised by the decline of local newspapers and radio.

"Local press, local radio are vital parts of local communities," he said.

"It is clear that continual cost-cutting is not the answer - we need to work together to find creative solutions and models," he said.

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