The Guardian is “actively considering” moving back to
Manchester in an attempt to save money.
Senior executives at Guardian Media Group have held “top secret” talks
about moving the newspaper’s headquarters from north London back to its
birthplace in Manchester, The Times has learnt.
The newspaper, which began its move to the capital in 1964, has been
suffering from falling advertising revenue as retailers turn to Google and
Facebook. Last year it made 250 staff redundant and employees have been told
that more job cuts are on the way, with the newspaper expecting to make heavy
financial losses again this year.
Rent on its headquarters in Kings Place, near King’s Cross, has also
soared in recent years, and the newspaper started looking at other locations in
London a year ago.
Insiders say that Kath Viner, the paper’s editor, is particularly keen
on the move, which could happen within two years. “Executives are actively
considering a move to Manchester,” one source said.
Most editorial and administrative staff would be expected to move north,
although a core of journalists, including political correspondents and some
executives, would remain in London. Those who refused to relocate would be
expected to receive voluntary redundancy, the source said.
Insiders confirmed that discussions had taken place: “Many options are
being discussed but no decision has been made. All options, including
Manchester, are on the table.”
Talks are also continuing on changing the mid-size Berliner format of
the newspaper to save money.
John Whittingdale, the former culture secretary, said that any plan to
ensure the future of the newspaper should be considered.
“This is a further demonstration of the financial pressures that
newspapers are now under,” Mr Whittingdale said. “The Guardian is
going through a very difficult time and while it may save them cash it will do nothing
to address the wider changes affecting all newspapers, with advertising going
to Google and Facebook.”
Ms Viner, who became editor in 2015, has been more aggressive than her
predecessor, Alan Rusbridger, in cutting costs, and is aiming to make the newspaper
break even within three years by shaving 20 per cent off spending. Last year
the group’s losses after tax and one-off charges topped £200 million.
Guardian bosses are thought to be looking at the Media Village in
Salford, on the outskirts of Manchester. The BBC has relocated more than 3,000
staff there and ITV also has 750 staff at the growing media hub.
Channel 4 may also move out of London, to Salford or Birmingham, after
Karen Bradley, the culture secretary, proposed last month that the broadcaster
should leave the capital.
With better transport links in the next few years as part of the
Northern Powerhouse project, the Salford media hub is fast becoming a credible
and cheaper alternative to London.
The Manchester Guardian was first
published in 1821 and stayed in the city for more than 140 years.
Guardian sources said office costs would still be
expensive, but less than in London. “This all has to be weighed up before a
decision is made,” one source said. “Some may want to move . . . The cost of
living will be cheaper.”
A spokesman for Guardian News & Media said: “We are always looking
at ways to reduce our cost base, including where different functions are
located, but we have no plans to leave Kings Place at present.”