Luke Blair: did the Metro get a good deal with TfL?

News that Alexander Lebedev may be about to snap up The Independent in the same way he bought the London Evening Standard last week eclipsed a slightly less exotic piece of media news.

Luke Blair: good deal for Metro
Luke Blair: good deal for Metro

Amid talk of the ex-KGB spy once again buying up parts of Britain’s crumbling newspaper industry came news that the freesheet, Metro, had won its second contract to be distributed on the publicly-owned London Underground.

The new contract, which interestingly will run for the same 7.5 year period as the next set of PPP upgrades, has not been revealed in detail.

But given that Ken Livingstone always thought the original contract – signed before he became Mayor – was a bad deal for London Underground, we can assume his successor Boris Johnson has made some tough new demands. 

Will we see the daily page devoted to Transport for London 'news' expanded still further, for example?

Does the new contract say anything about the kind of editorial standards the Mayor expects in the paper?

And just how much did Metro pay anyway?

Let’s not forget though that Ken, unhappy with the Standard-owned Metro having a cheap monopoly on his tube system, tried to open up the market by creating an afternoon slot.

Unfortunately this coincided with the start of the biggest slump in advertising for 30 years. 

So the whole process was abandoned in 2007 when no-one bid enough money – not even Rupert Murdoch via thelondonpaper (remember it?) nor Rupert and Ken’s arch enemies, the Daily Mail/Evening Standard’s London Lite (remember it?).

Both of those London freesheets are now gone.  Only a few smaller operations like City AM remain alongside the Metro. 

Indeed, no-one actually knows if the Metro had any serious competition at all for the new contract.

And yet it will run until the Olympics are a distant memory and we are running up to a fifth Mayoral term in London.  We may even be reminiscing about the harsh economic times of the past.

At a time when major newspapers are still being sold for £1 to Mr Lebedev, it all means the Metro has done a good deal, no matter what price it paid.

LUke Blair is a director at the London Communications Agency

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