Coleridge blasts OFT over relationship with industry

By Alyson Fixter

Periodical
Publishers Association chairman Nicholas Coleridge has blasted the
Office of Fair Trading over its lack of relationship with the magazine
industry, calling the watchdog “bureaucratic and slow”.

The PPA
has been trying to influence the OFT over plans to change the current
system of magazine distribution, which it warns could lead to thousands
of small newsagents closing.

Coleridge, managing director of
Condé Nast, told the PPA Magazines 2005 conference this week: “The OFT
is a complex organisation, very different from the companies we are
used to working with. It is bureaucratic and slow and we still have a
long way to go. For example, I have written countless letters to the
OFT chairman (John Vickers), all of which he has failed to answer
himself. I am told he has a firm policy of never answering letters or
meeting anyone from the industries he works with. He is being knighted
soon for services to the industry.”

The
OFT was thought likely to release details of its decision on opening up
the magazine distribution network this week, but failed to do so.

Coleridge
warned: “At the moment it looks as though it will go ahead. But we will
not rest in our defence of this vibrant industry.” Also at the
conference, Norman Pearlstine, CEO of Time Inc in the US, said: “In
America we don’t have the OFT but we have managed to screw up our
distribution system all by ourselves.

“There were once 400 wholesalers in the US. There are now four, and two of those are on the verge of closing.”

Britain’s
most famous magazine export, American Vogue editor Anna Wintour, has
attributed the brain drain of UK journalists to the US to the unique
training grounds provided byBritish magazines, as opposed to their more
“ponderous” American counterparts.

She told the conference that
UK journalists are an “appealing proposition” to American
employers because of the huge range of experience they get on
smaller-staffed UK titles.

Wintour said: “When I first arrived at
American Vogue there was an editor for just about everything. One of
the first things I did was reduce the staffing levels by about 50 per
cent”.

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