Heseltine proposes magazine distribution levy

The magazine industry could provide financial support for small newsagents to help protect against the power of the big supermarkets, under new proposals put forward by Lord Heseltine, owner of Haymarket Publishing.

The former deputy prime minister has said he believes the industry should raise an "administrative levy" to help smaller shops sell more of their magazines, and is reportedly backed by the Periodical Publishers’ Association.

Heseltine has been chairing the "Heseltine Group" of publishers, fighting against last year’s OFT ruling that existing magazine distribution arrangements should be opened up to more competition.

The OFT last month announced a U-turn on that decision and is due to come up with a revised position soon.

In The Guardian on Monday, Heseltine said: "I was appalled by how bad the relationship was between publishers and newsagents. It didn’t make any sense for the producers not to see eye-to-eye with the front end. Nobody benefits from inefficient distribution, least of all publishers."

The industry is reportedly considering spending £1m a year on distribution, a similar figure to that currently spent by newspaper publishers, or setting up an ombudsman to deal with complaints from retailers about distribution.

The OFT’s second draft opinion is expected at the end of May and is likely to be very different from last year’s announcement. Since then, the watchdog’s CEO and chairman have stepped down, replaced by CEO John Fingleton, and Philip Collins, the new chairman.

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