Trinity Mirror has confessed that the circulation figures reported
for the Birmingham Evening Mail and its sister titles over the last six
years were grossly inflated.
The group is bracing itself for pounds 20 million of claims from
advertisers, following the admission that the actual ABC figures for the
last nine half-yearly periods should have been 17 per cent lower than
stated for the Evening Mail and the Sunday Mercury, and 10 per cent
lower for The Birmingham Post.
It is unclear who is to blame for the ’irregularities’, which came to
light during an internal review following the merger of Mirror Group -
which owned the newspapers in question - with Trinity. A group spokesman
said: ’the senior individuals concerned with the overstatement of ABC
numbers have now left the group’.
The titles, which accounted for 5.8 per cent of turnover in the last
financial year, have now been de-listed by the ABC. The ABC has also
launched an investigation into the problem with the co-operation of the
publishers and accountancy giant PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which conducted
After announcing the situation to the City last Thursday, Trinity Mirror
launched a damage limitation exercise. It pointed out that readership
figures have remained constant over the last four years and added that
it ’believes these numbers are the most relevant measure for the
majority of advertising clients’.
But there is no doubt that the revelation will cost Trinity Mirror
millions, and there are also concerns about its impact on the ABC’s
credibility and the credibility of the regional press as a whole.
’Of course this could damage the ABC brand,’ said Simon Devitt, ABC
chief executive. ’That is why we are working hard to find out who is at
Roger Winfield, newspaper sales director at Newcastle Chronicle and
Journal and a member of the ABC’s regional press committee, said: ’It is
sad if it has a negative impact on the regional press, because we are
all at such pains to present transparent figures.’
Tony Witts, managing director of The West Midlands Express & Star Group
was magnanimous, even though his group, which has a number of papers in
and around the Birmingham area, has often come second in the circulation
wars by just a few thousand copies. ’We’ve puzzled for some time over
the papers’ performance,’ he said. ’We fully support Trinity Mirror’s
actions, however, and we wish them well in restoring credibility for the