Select Committee on Communications Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary letter from the National Union of Journalists


  I am writing to you in your capacity as a clerk to the House of Lords Committee on Communications to bring to your attention NUJ concerns over the management of a proposed merger between Reuters and Thomson. I have separately written a similar letter to members of the committee to bring this matter to their attention. Some of our concerns focus specifically on actions by David Schlesinger, Editor-in-Chief at Reuters, who will be before your committee on Wednesday morning.

  This merger is of key importance in the media sector, since it brings together two of the most significant suppliers of financial news and information. If approved by the European Commission and the US Department of Justice, the merger of the two companies will result in the world's biggest company of its type and leave just two major suppliers in this field.

  Although approval of the merger is still pending, it has become clear that the companies are pushing ahead with their plans in the expectation of a positive response from both competition regulators.

  This work is being done in the absence of any consultation with employee representatives, leading to concerns amongst journalists working for both companies, The NUJ is formally recognised by both Reuters and Thomson but to date neither company has been forthcoming in consulting on how the two separate operations will be integrated into one.

  In communication with the union Reuters has claimed that any consultation may prejudice the outcome of the competition authorities' deliberations. However, communications from David Schlesinger to employees have made it clear that plans are going ahead without taking on board the concerns of the companies' employees.

  Such an approach would be worrying in any organisation, but in the media sector it is of particular concern, since journalists working on these titles will be crucial in maintaining the quality and accuracy of the resulting company's services. Large parts of the media sector use material supplied by Reuters and Thomson, so the accuracy of reporting is a crucial issue.

  Competition in this sector does not solely focus on price. The quality, accuracy and integrity of the journalism at the heart of these news and information services are also vitally important. Safeguards must be put in place to protect these standards, including a commitment to long-term investment in journalism. However, Reuters management has been unwilling to meet us to discuss their plans for the merger.

  Some of our specific questions that have so far gone unanswered include:

    —  It has been suggested that this will be a merger of equals, but given that a huge majority of management post merger will be from Reuters, is that really the case?

    —  How will the reduction in competition affect the company's commitment to quality journalism after the merger?

    —  What impact will the $500 million savings have on the size of the merged company's journalistic workforce?

    —  If there are job losses, have the companies considered how this will affect the quality of its services, both in terms of the pressures placed on remaining staff as well the impact on staff morale?

    —  Are there plans to expand areas of news coverage after the deal is completed?

    —  Why won't Reuters discuss its plans with the relevant unions?

  I am very grateful for you taking the time to consider these issues and would be very happy to provide you with further information if you have any questions on this matter.

14 January 2008

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