FEARS ARE growing for the future of the Hackney Gazette. The company that owns the chronicler of the highs and lows of Hackney is facing a possible £13 million tax bill.
Admitting that it could have run up a huge amount of unpaid corporation tax and interest over the last 10 years, the Norwich-based Archant is putting a huge amount aside to pay to the Revenue after “a recent tax case involving another company”.
Fans of the paper have become increasingly worried about its decline as advertising leaves print for the internet. Once the paper, started in 1864, was essential reading in several editions a week; now newsagents may order as few as 5 copies of its once-a-week editions — and sell only two — although some have told Loving Dalston they sell 20 a week.
Archant tells would-be advertisers that the Gazette sells 31,700 copies a week. In a borough with an official population of less than 300,000, including non-English-speakers, that would be a remarkable figure. The paper also “bulks” — gives away copies.
Archant’s latest turnover fell 2.7% year on year to £131.4 million, although the Gazette website says it is £194 million. The company’s profits have fallen by 40%.
The Gazette this month, April 2013, raised its cover price to 65p even though the paper now includes stories that used to be reserved for sister paper the Islington Gazette. Staff have been told by Archant’s London managing director, Will Hattam, to work on both, prompting mutterings of “God save us from whizzkids”.
Archant publications are also building their web presences at the expense of their print versions. Many Hackneyites will be hoping their local paper outlasts the whizzkid (worth a bet) and still has a print presence for its 150th birthday next year, 2014 (not worth a bet).
David Altheer 190413
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