FLEET STREET, as some wag wisely remarked, is a pretty draughty place even at the best of times. But the economic wind that threatens to blow down it could soon make the present chill almost cheerful.
Lord Thomson of Fleet, owner of the Sunday Times, has made no bones about the issue and evidently regards one of his functions as a Press Baron as that of a wind-raiser. How else does one interpret his recent statement in Beirut that he intended to ensure "a cool climate for the Sunday Telegraph."
There is, of course, no love lost between Lord Thomson and Mr. Michael Berry (the Editor-in-Chief of both Telegraphs). The Beirut statement may be nothing more than a further shot in the semantic sniping between these two, but such an interpretation is doubtful.
What Lord Thomson did not say—but what all Fleet Street knows—is that if Lord Thomson gains control of The Times then he could create "a cool climate" for the Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times and the Guardian.
According to Mr. Randolph Churchill, Michael Berry has got deep pockets. With both his journalistic and and business flair he is obviously capable of looking after himself and his newspapers. Could the Guardian, however, sustain itself against The Times run with all the power behind it of the Thomson organisation?
The Monopolies Commission is at present studying Lord Thomson's take-over proposals for The Times. Up to last Friday it has been assumed that the deal would be sanctioned. Now, however, there is a chance of a firm counter-offer being made by a consortium. The Guardian has announced that it will not make a bid for The Times and will not join the consortium. A Guardian merger with The Times would have meant the death of the latter newspaper so the Guardian decision not to be involved in such a take-over is welcome.
What Britain and Fleet Street cannot afford is the folding of another national newspaper—particularly in the "quality" field.