MEDIA: Telegraph challenges ABC

Finally the bubbling row about discounted and bulk newspaper sales has erupted into public, with the Telegraph Group this week threatening to sue the Audit Bureau of Circulations after the latest ABC figures were published without its titles included.

Finally the bubbling row about discounted and bulk newspaper sales has

erupted into public, with the Telegraph Group this week threatening to

sue the Audit Bureau of Circulations after the latest ABC figures were

published without its titles included.



Where The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph’s sales should have been

reported was a line reading ‘figures not recorded this month’. Behind

that bland statement is a bruising and bitter story that has been

building for months.



ABC figures used to record the number of papers sold each month by

various publishers. Good papers saw sales rise, struggling titles saw

sales drop. But things aren’t so easy any more. Bulk deals, where papers

are sold at a discount to the likes of hotels and petrol retailers to be

given away, and discounted sales where vouchers and coupons reduce cover

prices to encourage sales across weeks or months, have changed all that.



Tensions have been rising about the way these sort of sales are recorded

and reached boiling point over the Telegraph’s autumn pre-pay

subscription offer. Potential readers were targeted and offered seven

papers a week for just pounds 1, compared to the pounds 3.65 full cover

price. Around 100,000 are rumoured to have taken up the offer, although

no hard figures have been given.



The Telegraph sought to have these sales included as normal circulation

figures. The Times was quick to demand that they be listed as ‘lesser

rate’ sales.



The Telegraph and ABC were unable to agree on how the figures should be

included. In the end, the Telegraph insisted that if they weren’t

counted then none of its figures should be listed.



Talks between the Telegraph and ABC are scheduled this week to discuss

revised figures, but until the issue is resolved, Jeremy Deedes,

managing director of the Telegraph Group, said that he would be serving

a writ on the ABC through solicitors Lewis Silkin for breach of

agreement.



According to Deedes, ABC’s decision not to include the discounted

subscriptions in the full circulation figures was ‘completely at

variance with what we had done in the past five months’.



A beleaguered Ray Hall, ABC’s chief executive, is hoisting up a white

flag for talks. ‘I would like to get round a table with all the national

newspapers and Newspaper Publisher’s Association, and discuss everything

in terms of rules and regulations of ABC as to whether or not the rules

are relevant in today’s market place, and, if not, the way forward.’



James MacManus, managing editor of The Times said: ‘The industry as a

whole would welcome a stronger ABC organisation. It is vital we have

transparent and proper accountable figures.’



------------------------------------------------------------------------

November national newspaper circulations - ABC

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                   Net circulation      Lesser rate         Bulk sales

The Sun              3,939,697            390,842                926

Daily Mirror         2,361,640             35,897             28,874

Daily Star             658,783                614                 23

Daily Mail           2,086,675            130,963             42,799

The Express          1,177,578            122,502             39,996

Daily Telegraph*     1,101,000              n/a                n/a

The Times              861,931             19,594             39,846

The Guardian           402,844              2,418              4,928

Independent            261,050             10,384             12,914

Financial Times        297,806              7,281              7,072

*The Daily Telegraph’s figure from KPMG Audit

------------------------------------------------------------------------



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