28 AUGUST 1964, Page 9

The Press

Spanner in the Works


AMEETING was held on Monday in London between representatives of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and representa- tives of the Observer colour magazine. Although the Observer are committed to coming out with their new magazine on September 6, a week on Sunday, no agreement was reached as to the terms on which it should be distributed. None the less, good will was shown on both sides—there was a reciprocal appreciation of the difficulties.

I pointed out last week that on the basis of a twopenny levy the distribution costs would amount to 4d. in total and that the Observer would be left with only 2d. of the reader's 6d. It is pretty obvious that on this basis the magazine could not come out. This was recognised by the newsagents as a matter of practical economics. For their part the Observer realised the diffi- culties of the newsagents. (I am postponing until next week my report on how this vital end of the newspaper business works.) It looks as if both Sides were genuinely seeking a compromise; but a settlement has been left very late in the day.

The Observer's case, I understand, is that they were given to understand by the newsagents nearly two years ago that if they produced a colour supplement it would be handled on the same terms as that of the Sunday Times, viz.:— id. from the publishers, id. from the reader— lid. in all. It is hard to tell how firm any such agreement was. In all probability, however, the newsagents would have given the same terms to the Observer as they gave to the Sunday Times. All this, however, changed when the Daily Tele- graph announced that they too were going to have a colour supplement to come out on Fri- days. This has been the real spanner in the works.

Friday is the newsagents' busiest day. There are the wide variety of magazines to be dis- tributed and a great number of country weekly Papers choose the same day. The Weekend Tele- graph has committed itself to Friday, September 25, for its first issue. Their position in some ways IS more difficult than that of the Observer. On the terms the newsagents are still asking their entire selling price of 3d. would be engorged by the newsagents. They would either have to abandon the enterprise or sharply increase their Price. All three supplements are in a jam.

The newsagents are sitting pretty. Prettiest of all, as usual, sit Messrs. W. H. Smith & Co. They do relatively little distributing but under what the newsagents propose (and Smith's are not a mem- ber of the National Federation of Retail News- agents) they would get an extra free 2d. for every copy they sold across their counters. Smith's have Only got to sit back to get richer and richer.

The Daily Express and the Daily Mail have still made no announcement about their plans, if any, for a joint colour press and individual colour Magazines. I learn, however, that they are both Planning in the immediate future forms of black

and white supplements which will be inserted

°nce a week in the body of the papers. This, of course, will cause no concern to the newsage.its. I gather that to give some illusion of colour they Will be printed on pink, green or yellow news- Print —perhaps of a higher quality or even, like The Times, on 'machine' paper. There is fierce competition to see which can get out first.

Sir Linton Andrews, writing in World's Press News last week, told us that Hugh Cudlipp be- lieves that 'the new people need a radical morn- ing paper. . ..' Mr. Harold Wilson is, of course, hoping that the rising Sun is going to give them more help than they could have expected from the setting Herald. I think both Sir Linton and Mr. Wilson may have misunderstood what the Sun is up to.

In World's Press News the week before Sir Linton wrote, the Sun took eight full pages of advertising. Four-fifths of one page was devoted to displays of two wallets—a slenderly-filled one with a rather coarse-grained outside contrasting with a stuffed one in shiny leather. Underneath we are told: 'JOHN AVERAGE IS MUCH BETTER OFF (actually about 23 per cent over the past ten years).' The unattractive slender wallet is pre- sumably what the Sun imagines John Average's wallet was like after six years of Socialism. The shiny fat wallet is presumably that which is en- joyed today 'over the past ten years' of Tory government. The Sun will soon be telling us `you HAVE NEVER HAD IT SO GOOD.'

I thought the two most readable stories in the Sunday papers were the Sunday Telegraph's interview with Mr. Evelyn Waugh and the article by Captain Michael Wardell in the Sunday Times on the macabre medical details of the last few months of Lord Beaverbrook's life. Wardell had already published his article in his own news- paper in Fredericton, New Brunswick. It was enterprising of the Sunday Times to pick it up.

The interview with Waugh in the Sunday Tele- graph was the work of a free-lance reporter, John Summers (who visited Waugh), and Anthony Haden-Guest, one of the editors of the Mandrake column, who knocked it into shape. It was a par- ticularly jolly scoop since Waugh had refused to give an interview a little while before to the Sun- day Times who had just serialised the -first volume of his memoirs. These are highly competitive days in Fleet Street, particularly among the three 'heavy' Sundays.

Last Sunday the Sunday Times announced on its front page that my friend the Oxford historian, Martin Gilbert, would write for their next week's magazine section an article on Munich entitled The Phoney Peace.' Little did I think in NM that I should live to see the day when the Sunday Times, one of the arch apostles of Munich (second possibly only to The Times), would stig- matise the Munich agreement in such a way. Tetnpora nos mutantur et mutanutr in illis. Good- ness, how times have changed in Fleet Street.

At the time of Munich the proprietor of the Sunday Times was Lord Kemsley, chief of the tribe of Badberries. Now it is the much more robust figure of Lord Thomson of Fleet. And the Badberries, who at one time controlled more national morning and provincial evening news- papers than anyone else, now have not a solitary paper to their name. Lord Kemsley's youngest son was only thirty-four when he and his brothers persuaded their father to sell out. I often wonder what it must feel like to be a retired news- paper proprietor at the age of thirty-four. The Goodberry empire is also much diminished. The hundred or more magazines they owned in the Amalgamated Press are now part of the empire of Mr. Cecil Harmsworth King. They must con- sole themselves with the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph and the new colour supple- ment the Weekend Telegraph. I daresay. how- ever, that this keeps them fully occupied.