Review of ABC audit regulations brings changes to system

The Audit Bureau of Circulations Council met on Tuesday to draw up the first set of revisions to ABC national newspaper rules and has agreed on changes to exclusion days, bulk sales and the tracking of lesser-rate sales. However, agency demands for greater transparency on weekday circulation figures have not yet been resolved.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations Council met on Tuesday to draw up

the first set of revisions to ABC national newspaper rules and has

agreed on changes to exclusion days, bulk sales and the tracking of

lesser-rate sales. However, agency demands for greater transparency on

weekday circulation figures have not yet been resolved.



Ray Hall, the chief executive of the ABC, said: ’This is only the

beginning. It is expected that other issues will be debated at future

working party meetings.’



First, exclusion days - when newspapers are allowed to omit certain days

if there has been unusual disruption to distribution - have been

redefined so that newspapers can only omit days if there is a

distribution shortfall of 10 per cent or above. The limit was previously

1 per cent. It is hoped that this will prevent newspaper groups from

abusing the system and using exclusion dates to even out poor

circulation. In the last set of ABCs for December 1997, the Independent

submitted a total of seven exclusion days, compared with four for the

Times and three days each for the other broadsheets.



Second, bulk sales - it has been agreed that newspapers must be willing

to submit bulk contract details to the ABC if they are requested. In the

past, such deals have been submitted on a voluntary basis. Individuals

at client companies will have to take responsibility for contracts to

make bulk auditing easier for the ABC to monitor.



Third, newspapers must now submit an in-depth audit trail on lesser-rate

sales.



The review of ABC audit rules began last August following the settlement

of a legal dispute between News International, the Telegraph and the ABC

over circulation figures.



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