2 APRIL 1948, Page 17


Siat,-*-The Public Relations Officer of the B.M.A. scarcely displays in argument that urbanity and good-humour one would expect from " an old Manchester Guardian hand." I sought to make two points: (1) To correct his impression that any competent newspaper staff could not have extracted the salient points from the B.M.A. plebiscite results in about ten minutes. This he interprets as a " little puff for themselves." (2) To assert that news should not be made subject to artificial and arbitrary embargoes, however lofty the motive. The wind of news bloweth where it listeth. Newspapers—morning or evening, national or provincial— accept the chances that one or other has the luck to get in first. They cannot concede the unlimited right of any authority to rig the market, even in pursuit of an ideal such as " the greatest good of the greatest -number." If they did, the way would be wide open to gerrymandering and control, not in the interests of the public or the Press, but in those of the issuing authority.

I do not doubt that the attempt to hold up publication of the plebiscite results from 11 a.m. until the following morning was made with the best intentions. Nevertheless, I contend that it was mistaken, not least from the standpoint of the B.M.A. On the whole, the safest principle for P.R.O.s and Press alike is that "news is sacred."—Yours faithfully,

[This correspondence is now closed.—ED., The Spectator.]