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Dacre’s attack turned against him

The knife with which Paul Dacre, the Mail’s editor-in-chief, attacked the “subsidariat” — loss-making media — is neatly turned against him by Peter Preston in today’s Observer.

In his Cudlipp lecture Dacre attacked the BBC, the Guardian, The Times and the Independent, saying: “Subsidised papers are, by definition, unable to survive in the free market”

Preston writes:

But pause! Is that a shiver of apprehension running down Kensington High Street? He couldn’t really have been talking about the Evening Standard he edits-in-chief, could he? Losses, when last disclosed: £18m – though the resourceful (departing) MD has taken £14m and then £12m swings at its cost base over the past couple of years, which might have produced a smile if circulation, down 18.1 per cent in a year (and only 209,000 of it paid for) hadn’t kept falling along with those costs; a familiar litany of decline.

He is writing in the context of the London free evenings battle between Dacre’s Associated and News International. One set of questions is about Associated’s subsidy of the Standard and the other is for News International. He asks:

What’s the strategy here? Is it to tear into Daily Mail cash reserves (on behalf of the Sun) and do Associated damage? Is it to slug out a victory that kills the Standard and London Lite, leaving thelondonpaper as a monopoly asset with a possibly golden future? Is it to start a paid-for London evening of Murdoch’s own, or broker some kind of merger? Or just to swamp Westminster in waste paper?

With neither free paper producing anything like enough advertising to turn a profit, it looks like an increasingly futile and damaging battle.

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