Lips Zipped As Murdoch Mulls New Free London Daily

10 December 2001

Word around London’s Grub Street is that Rupert Murdoch is planning a new free daily newspaper to rival Associated Newspapers’ highly successful Metro title. If true this could trigger an even bloodier rerun of the battle fought in the mid-80s between Associated and Robert Maxwell’s short-lived Daily News.

Murdoch, however, is of steelier mettle than the late unlamented Maxwell and driven by profit rather than ego . According to weekend reports, Murdoch’s News International has offered £4 million annually to Railtrack for exclusive distribution rights at its main London stations – said to be triple the amount currently paid by Associated.

Neither NI nor Associated were willing to comment on the speculation, although Murdoch’s flagship UK title The Times carried a brief reference to the story with a terse “no comment”.

Those close to the media tycoon say he envisages a 24-hour, middle-market free newspaper targeting London’s lucrative classified advertising market - currently a virtual monopoly of the Associated-owned Evening Standard. The Murdoch venture would publish two editions daily with a morning circulation of 240,000 and an additional 400,000 copies distributed in the mid-afternoon/evening period.

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