Lads' mags will not be repositioned alongside porn titles

By Alyson Fixter

Lads’ mag publishers have hit back at claims their titles could be relegated to the top shelf alongside porn magazines.

Publishers of magazines such as Nuts, Loaded and Zoo said heavy national newspaper coverage given to the new guidelines from the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) was "totally overblown" and inaccurate.

The stories followed a press release from Hackney MP Diane Abbott that claimed a victory in the war against "offensive material" following the guidelines, and applauded the inclusion of lads’ mags in the new code.

But while a series of newspapers and commentators ran pieces claiming the lads’ mags had been reclassified as topshelf material, publishers have insisted the guidelines do not place titles such as Nuts and Zoo in the same category as Penthouse, and do not say they should be on the top shelf.

One publisher has even threatened legal action over any further stories, fearing retailers will be put off stocking its titles by the furore.

Loaded editor Martin Daubney said: "Once again, well-meaning, but misinformed broadsheet reporters are throwing mud pies at the men’s mags.

"We’ve been here before, only this time they’re not only wrong, they quite clearly haven’t read the NFRN guidelines.

"They state, in plain English, that lads’ mags ‘are not top-shelf titles’.

Rather, they ‘urge sensitivity in relation to their display’ — which, they go on to explain, means not displaying men’s mags ‘at children’s eye-level or below’.

"If the reporters in question do know of any children for whom the top shelf is at or below eye level, then I’d suggest they direct them immediately towards the British Olympic Association. They may be our best bet of securing gold in 2012 — at pro basketball."

Gavin Griffiths, publisher of saucy women’s magazine Scarlet, which aims to cater for female sexuality "in the same way that men’s magazines have been looking after the boys for years", said he thought putting lads’ mags on the top shelf would have been "a bit of radical step".

He added: "There is a world of difference between the utterly degrading topshelf porn titles and the having-a-laugh British seaside postcard attitude that lads’ mags purvey, and it’s a mistake to lump them together."

Emap, publisher of Zoo and FHM, said: "The guidelines are no different to how we have always actively recommended retailers handle our titles in the past — across all the different sectors we publish in — which require a more responsible approach to display."

And a spokesman for the PPA echoed the industry line, also "welcoming" the guidelines, but insisting: "It is in no one’s interest that magazines are inappropriately placed, but we would emphasise these are not top-shelf titles.

"If you look at the content you will see that they are really not pornographic material. Obviously the guidelines needed a bit of tightening up — and that is what has happened."

One publisher, who asked not to named, said the issue had been "overblown" by The Observer and The Independent, and that their stories bore little resemblance to the truth.

The voluntary code had simply been updated with "common sense" guidelines, he added.

NFRN DISPLAY GUIDELINES: LADS’ MAGS

These titles are not top-shelf titles, however we do urge members to be sensitive to the concerns of consumers, particularly in relation to the display of titles with front covers and/or content that may be inappropriate to display at a young person’s eye-level or below.

To minimise complaints from consumers, without adversely affecting the sale of these titles, we recommend:

  • That you do not display them at children’s eye-level or below, to ensure that they are not in the direct sight and reach of children
  • That you do not display them adjacent to your display of children’s titles and comics
  • Where display space restraints preclude the above, that titles with front covers that may cause concern are part-overlapped with other titles so as to minimise the potential for offence to parents with children

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