Emap under fire for breaking ABC bulks rules

LONDON - Emap Consumer Media has infringed strict Audit Bureau of Circulations rules on bulk copies, forcing ABC to reissue statements of circulation for 14 key titles.

Titles which will see a significantly reduced circulation figure for the January to June 2002 period are Arena, Q, Mixmag, Here's Health and Smash Hits. Changes for Elle, FHM, New Woman, The Face, Red, Slimming, Top Santé, Pregnancy and Birth and Mother and Baby are said to be negligible.

The publisher has submitted circulation figures that are higher than they should be under ABC rules. Senior press buyers said that the changed statements could lead to compensation claims from agencies and advertisers.

In a major move to reassure advertisers, Emap Consumer Media, headed by the chief executive, Paul Keenan, has announced that as a matter of policy it will no longer include bulks in its circulation figures.

A percentage of the bulk copies circulated for the 14 titles did not meet complex ABC rules defining the treatment of paid-for bulks used as part of contra deals and non-controlled free copies.

ABC's statement reissue, effectively a rap on the knuckles for Emap, comes as the ABC Bulk Committee considers changes to its rules on bulk copies.

Chris Boyd, the ABC chief executive, said: "As a result of a routine inspection, it was found that certificates for 14 publications required reissue. Emap co-operated fully and worked with ABC to identify the extent of the issue."

An Emap statement said: "Emap is committed to complete transparency of its auditing procedures. We have worked closely alongside ABC in removing the copies that infringed ABC rules and fully support the reissue of ABC certificates."

Emap sources said it was confident it could avoid compensating advertisers, claiming that all copies were legally distributed to consumers keen to read the magazines.

The decision to strip out bulk figures from its future ABCs did not meet with universal approval; Steve Goodman, the group press director at MediaCom, said: "As a buyer I like to see bulks in ABC figures because they can be valuable in a number of cases. If I don't know what bulks they're doing I might not be seeing all the promotional activity and a reader of a bulk copy is still a reader. They might be left with a higher number of readers per copy which could cause problems."

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