Isle of Thanet Gazette

The Thanet Gazette is one of three titles that publisher Northcliffe Media plans to merge

Northcliffe Media will decide by the end of the year whether to merge three of its Kent titles in the wake of a failed bid to sell them to the Kent Messenger Group.

The Thanet Times, Thanet Gazette, and Canterbury Times were among seven titles within the Kent Regional News and Media Group that Northcliffe intended to sell to its rival Kent publisher.

But the proposed deal was referred to the Competition Commission by the Office of Fair Trading, causing the KM Group to pull out to avoid incurring high costs.

The three Thanet and Canterbury titles are now likely to be merged in the new year, following an review of the proposed move led by Richard Karn, Northcliffe's managing director for the south east.

Staff were also told yesterday, in an email from Karn, that employees of the recently-closed Medway News and East Kent Gazette are currently on gardening leave while a consultation continues until 2 January.

Karn said in the email that the company was "optimistic" it will find alternative roles for the majority of staff who have expressed an interest in staying, with those who haven't leaving at the close of the consultation period.

Yesterday's memo also announced further cuts in the Kent region, with newspaper sales and promotions – sales support staff, field sales, and photography departments affected – and said sport, leisure, and commercial feature production for Kent titles is to be moved to Essex.

Karn told staff: "There will remain a great deal of uncertainty for individuals. There will also be a great number of questions relating to the detail that we will be unable to answer in some cases for a number of weeks yet.

"I hope that setting out who will project manage and defining the timetables we expect to work to in each case will go some way to managing expectations as to when and how these will be answered.

"It will also give you a clear point of reference to an individual if you are affected or have any other concerns.

"Thank you for your continued co-operation and professionalism at a challenging time."

Northcliffe was unable to confirm the number of staff affected by the planned changes and declined to comment.

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