Daily Mirror owner Reach Plc has been given the all-clear for its takeover of the Express and Star newspapers from Northern & Shell by regulator Ofcom and the competition authority.
Media regulator Ofcom concluded that the agreed takeover of Northern & Shell by Trinity Mirror, which has since changed its name to Reach, does not raise concerns over media plurality or free expression of opinion in the newspaper industry.
Matt Hancock, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, had referred the deal to Ofcom in May over concerns about freedom of expression and editorial decisions as well as media plurality.
But on Wednesday he accepted the regulator's decision and said he therefore would not refer the deal to a deeper Phase 2 investigation. Hancock said he had now notified the Competition & Markets Authority to now deal with the matter solely from a competition perspective.
Also submitting its report on Wednesday, the CMA said it believes the merger does not raise competition concerns in any of the issues for which it had been referred, including that the two sides "not close competitors, as they target different demographic groups and differ in content and tone".
Trinity Mirror owns the left of centre Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and The People as well as Scotland's Daily Record and Sunday Mail. It agreed to buy Northern & Shell's publishing assets from Richard Desmond in March in a deal that brought the right-wing Express and Star newspapers into its fold.
Trinity's chief executive Simon Cox has said the deal will not affect the editorial lines of any of the papers. Out of all the national newspaper printed in the UK, only the The Guardian also takes the left-of-centre ground, with The Times, Telegraph, Mail and Sun papers all traditionally supporting the Conservative party. The Financial Times is less steadfastly right-wing but tends to support the Conservatives at elections.
Reach welcomed the announcements, which completed the regulatory review process in the UK in relation to the acquisition.
On Wednesday Fox said: "We welcome today's decision by the Secretary of State. Today we are two successful separate news organisations, but together we will be stronger and better able to compete and adapt to the challenging conditions in which we operate."