The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) has rejected a move by Trinity Mirror-owned Birmingham Post & Mail (BP&M) to set up an independent arbitration panel to handle compensation claims arising from the overstatement of circulation figures for three of its newspapers.
BP&M plans to establish a three-person panel, chaired by a top barrister, to hear claims from clients and advertising agencies relating to the overstatement of circulation figures for the Birmingham Evening Mail, Birmingham Post and Sunday Mercury. The period in question dates back at least six years to when the titles were owned by Midland Independent Newspapers, prior to their acquisition by Mirror Group in 1997.
Mark Haysom, a director of Trinity Mirror and managing director of BP&M, has written to advertisers offering a two-year ad rate freeze and ten per cent reduction in the cost of advertising next year (MW November 11). But there are about 80 larger customers which are dissatisfied with this proposal, hence the move to set up an arbitration panel.
Admitting that compensation will be paid where it is “shown to be warranted”, Haysom says: “It would be unreasonable for anyone to expect us to make compensation payments without at least having the opportunity to test individual claims. The arbitration process should allow us to do this in a non-confrontational way.”
But Marc Mendoza, a member of the IPA’s Media Policy Group – which is responsible for press sales practice – and managing director of Mediapolis, says: “We think the arbitration panel is a smokescreen. BP&M published inflated ABC figures. It should now pay compensation based on the amount by which its circulation figures were inflated.”