Messenger newspapers on News Corp’s ‘for sale’ list

News Corp is in negotiations to sell its portfolio of regional and community newspapers, which includes the Messenger titles in Adelaide.

May 11, 2020, updated May 11, 2020
Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The media giant’s national publication, The Australian, reported today that the list of more than 100 regional and community titles was on the table in sale discussions with Australian Community Media – the owner of the former Fairfax stable of rural newspapers, as well as major publications such as The Canberra Times.

When asked whether Messenger titles were in the sale discussions, a spokesperson refused to comment but pointed InDaily to the article’s first paragraph which indicates the entire regional and community portfolio is up for negotiation.

News Corp announced on April 1 it would stop printing 60 community titles in SA, NSW, Victoria and Queensland from April 9 as the result of a sharp decline in advertising revenue.

The titles included Messenger Newspapers in South Australia, which have continued to publish online content.

On Friday, News Corp announced a huge $US1 billion ($A1.5 billion) loss in the March quarter after taking a $US1.1 billion ($A1.7 billion) impairment charge against its Foxtel and News America Marketing assets.

Messenger, which has provided suburban news in Adelaide for almost 60 years and has been a training ground for generations of South Australian reporters, has been in News Corp’s sights for cuts over the past decade, with titles and distribution being progressively reduced.

Australian Community Media, led by Antony Catalano, is the dominant regional publisher in South Australia, although it, too, has been cutting its cloth in amid the COVID-19 crisis, suspending or cutting back publication of many of its titles around Australia, including in regional SA.

Catalano has long been reported to be interested in News Corp’s regional newspapers, but it is not known whether the Messenger interests him.

InDaily has attempted to contact Australian Community Media.

The Australian today reported that the sale wasn’t a done deal, and that the titles to be included in the purchase was one point of contention.

An InDaily investigation in May last year gave an insight into the financial troubles of the Messenger newspapers.

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That report confirmed that News Corp management had approached four north-eastern councils requesting significant investment – totalling at least $1.6 million over two years – to keep the print run of the local North Eastern Weekly afloat. The pitch wasn’t successful.

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