The dominance of supermarkets – and government pressure for more open markets – pose a major threat to press freedom, publishers have been told by the PPA.
The increasing stranglehold that supermarkets have on the distribution of magazines and newspapers, will also lead to less diversity.
These warnings were made at Distripress, the international distribution conference, in Vancouver.
Ian Locks, chief executive of the Periodical Publishers Association, said that governments in Europe, as in the US, were constantly pushing for open markets to drive competition – which inevitably leads to more concentration and less diversity.
Locks pointed out that the German Supreme Court had upheld a ruling in favour of the exclusive territory system in Germany.
He said it was “beguiling to succumb to the siren voices of powerful forces wanting to control press distribution through pressing for open market systems”.
Locks said that, while the common sense approach was “one truck is cheaper than many”, from a democratic perspective, press distribution was “the bedrock of a free and diverse press”.
“Content may be king, but distribution is God,” he said.
“Allowing increasingly-dominant supermarkets to develop a stranglehold on the press through control of its major route to market threatens diversity and ultimately press freedom – accepted in countries where it is cherished as a central pillar of democracy.”
Locks concluded: “Press distribution is a natural monopoly.
“But with it goes the responsibility to maintain it in a fair way, ensuring the widest possible availability of the greatest possible diversity of news, opinion, information and entertainment for consumers through the printed medium.”