MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Trinity Mirror calls in lawyers to ease circulation ruckus

By ANNA GRIFFITHS, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 10 December 1999 12:00AM

It all seemed to start so well. When Trinity Mirror held up its hands last month and announced that circulation figures for three of its Birmingham newspapers had been overstated for six years, you couldn’t help but admire it for being so forthright. After all, it must be tempting to push something like that under the carpet because it’s not that easily rectifiable.

It all seemed to start so well. When Trinity Mirror held up its

hands last month and announced that circulation figures for three of its

Birmingham newspapers had been overstated for six years, you couldn’t

help but admire it for being so forthright. After all, it must be

tempting to push something like that under the carpet because it’s not

that easily rectifiable.



And when Trinity Mirror announced a fund of pounds 20 million to right

the wrongs of the previous years, everyone was even more admiring. Not

only had Trinity Mirror drawn attention to some previously creative

auditing procedures, it also put a fair whack of money in the kitty as

compensation.



The bargaining began. The newspapers’ offer to clients and agencies to

discount and freeze ad rates was unsurprisingly turned away by a number

of agencies, who wanted retrospective compensation.



But then, after asking for retrospective compensation to be considered,

a number of agencies found that their demands were being dealt with by

Trinity Mirror’s lawyers. Agencies were concerned that what they had

hoped would be resolved through normal negotiation procedures would be

done via lawyers.



The arbitration panel was then introduced. Trinity Mirror approached the

Institute of Practitioners in Advertising last week to ask if it could

suggest who would be appropriate to sit on the panel. The IPA said it

would assist if it approved of introducing such a thing into the

negotiations - but it felt the compensation process was becoming

unnecessarily complicated.



This reaction sparked indignation within Canary Wharf and the offices of

the Birmingham Post & Mail. After all, they are only trying to do the

right thing, aren’t they?


I can see both sides of the coin. Agencies want to get money they feel

they are entitled to and sort the mess out as quickly as possible.

Trinity Mirror wants to make sure the claims are fair and accountable

and fill in the cracks of the newspapers’ previous trading reputation.

Retrospective compensation, by its nature, involves a lot of ’ifs’ and

’buts’.



But the involvement of lawyers and arbitration panels presents an

alarming array of hoops to jump through in a process which was set out

with the best of intentions. First, lawyers are costly.



Second, lawyers’ letters flying backwards and forwards do not create the

most friendly of trading environments. Of course, it’s tempting for

agencies to over-inflate their compensation claims. But surely Trinity

Mirror and agencies are grown-up enough to be able to resolve the

problem among themselves without recourse to expensive legal wrangles.

And who wins in the end? The lawyers.



Oh, and the journalists, of course. During the traditionally lean news

periods of the Christmas weeks, such developments promise to fill a few

more column inches.





anna.griffiths@haynet.com



Have your say at www.campaignlive.com on channel 4.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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