I was just checking on the Monopolies &
Merger Commissions website and their is no mention of an investigation into the ownership
of the Express. I believe that the window of opportunity has now passed and that Richard
Desmond is the uncontested owner of the Express and the Daily Star.
The last few weeks has seen a pretty unpleasant campaign mounted by
an awful lot of competitors. Most of them simply arguing that being involved with porn
makes Desmond somehow unfit to own a paper. (As if other newspaper proprietors are always
Anyway here are a couple of examples, firstly from some Daily Mail
The Daily and Sunday Express have just been acquired by a pornographer. Do you really
want an X-rated paper in your home?
Forgive me for writing to you but you may be unaware of the fact that your newspaper,
the Daily Express has just been bought by one of Britain's most prolific peddlers of
Richard Desmond, who has acquired both the Daily Express and Sunday Express, makes a
fortune from such top shelf magazines as Nude Reader's Wives, Big Ones, Asian Babes and
Over Forty as well as an X-rated cable TV channel called Fantasy
You could be forgiven for feeling apprehensive about the kind of values Mr Desmond will
bring to your newspapers which, until now, has always stood for everything that is decent
in British life
Don't despair. There is one paper which is true to all the values that you hold dear.
That is why I am inviting you to try the Daily Mail and The Mail On Sunday at a very
special price for the next 11 weeks. Indeed for the next nine days you can sample both
papers for just a penny a day. But then the Mail, which champions all that is best about
this country is simply, Britain's best value-for-money newspaper
So why not try us this weekend and in the coming weeks with the special money-off
vouchers in this envelope? You could save yourself pounds. I don't think you will be
Lawrence Sear (Managing Editor)
Even the Guardian rates at the same gutter level on this issue.
Fresh evidence of the involvement of Richard Desmond, the new owner of the Daily
Express and Daily Star, in the selling of hard pornography emerged last night after an
investigation of his web of interlinked companies.
Inquiries by the Guardian have revealed that a company wholly owned by Mr Desmond has
registered a website which promises live heterosexual sex, live lesbian sex as well as
other images portraying women as old as 78, pregnant, and one who calls herself Anal
A spokesman for Mr Desmond, who was out of the country last night, admitted that the
"fantasy" website was part of the businessman's empire which includes a whole
stable of top shelf publications, OK! magazine, and now the Daily and Sunday Express and
Daily Star, purchased last month for £125m.
The sale of the newspapers, with a combined circulation of 1.6m, has yet to be referred
to the trade secretary, Stephen Byers. The Office of Fair Trading has invited comments on
the acquisition and has set a deadline of next Wednesday. A report will then be passed to
Mr Byers who, if he chooses, can refer the deal to the Competition Commission on public
A precedent was set a decade ago when David Sullivan, publisher of the lurid Daily
Sport newspaper, was prevented from taking over the Bristol Evening Post by the then
monopolies & mergers commission, now the competition commission.
Although there was no reason to block the takeover on competition grounds, the MMC
decided that Mr Sullivan's ownership of the newspaper group "could harm the standing
of the papers in their community".
If Mr Sullivan had bought the newspapers he "could be expected to influence
editorial policy and the character and content of these papers and this would harm both
the accurate presentation of news and the free expression of opinion", it added.
The OFT inquiry is purely on competition grounds, but may also reflect any other public
interest comments made by third parties.
Mr Sullivan was referred automatically to the MMC because the combined circulation of
his papers and the Bristol Evening Post group breached the rules on newspaper mergers.
The acquisition of Express Newspapers by Mr Desmond has already attracted controversy.
An early day motion by Brian Sedgemore and signed by 10 Labour MPs expressed "grave
concerns that national newspapers within the Express Group should have fallen under the
ownership of a publisher of pornography".
Mr Desmond has set up an advisory board between himself and the newspaper editors to
soften criticism that he interferes in the content of the titles, but many staff consider
the system to be worthless.
Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat media spokesman said: "The facts that have been
uncovered will cause concern for many longstanding Express readers. If he wants to run sex
shows on the sidelines he is happy to do so, but in the public interest, none of that must
cross to the newspapers."
Mr Desmond had a 30-minute meeting in Downing Street last week with Tony Blair, who is
unlikely to have known the full extent of his involvement in pornography.
On his internet site Mr Desmond charges £9.99 a month to watch "live" sex on
web cams, and promotes his magazines