MLA Máirtiín Ó Muilleoir seeking buyer for Belfast Media Group

The Belfast Media Group offices on Hannahstown Hill
Ryan McAleer

SINN Féin MLA Máirtiín Ó Muilleoir is seeking a buyer for his west Belfast media business.

Mr Ó Muilleoir is managing director of Belfast Media Group, which produces the Andersonstown News, North Belfast News, South Belfast News and New York based Irish Echo newspapers.

In a social media post yesterday, the South Belfast Assembly member announced that he had started a consultation process with staff.

He said his newspapers had experienced a decline in both print circulation and advertising revenue.

“Belfast Media Group’s Andersonstown News and North Belfast News are institutions providing first-class news service while building up the community they serve,” he wrote.

“But with decline of print media and falling ad revenue, it’s time for a new chapter with a progressive partner or purchaser who can build for the future.

“I started consultation today with the Belfast Media Group team and partners to agree best way to secure jobs, attract fresh investment and create a sustainable business, which can continue to provide top-quality news service,” he said.

“It is business as usual until then and I am confident of a positive outcome.”

Originally established as Nuachtain in 2003, the business changed its name to the Belfast Media Group in 2009.

Mr Ó Muilleoir is listed as its main shareholder. Group editor Robin Livingstone is listed as a second shareholder.

According to the latest company accounts filed by the Belfast Media Group, the business had 38 staff at the end of March 31 2018, 12 fewer than it had in 2017.

The same accounts revealed that the firm’s profit and loss account dropped from £303,152 in 2017 to £234,601 at the end of March last year.

The company stopped printing its own newspapers earlier this year, opting to use the printing operation of JPI Media (formerly Johnston Press) in Carn, outside Portadown.

The Belfast Media Group is no longer registered with ABC, the body which measures newspaper circulation.

Its last figures from 2016 suggested that the circulation for the Andersonstown News had fallen to just over 8,200, with the North Belfast News dropping to 2,626.

It’s understood both figures have continued to decline in the last three years.

In March this year, the Belfast Media Group put its entire offices and print hall on Hannahstown Hill up for sale, with real estate firm McKibbin seeking offers of at least £750,000.

At the time, the reason for sale was given as a planned relocation.

But the property company confirmed yesterday that it was no longer marketing the property for sale.

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