Spotlight falls on ABC as freesheet row escalates

Media buyers have hit out at News International, Associated Newspapers and the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) for their roles in the furore over alleged freesheet-dumping in London.

The attack from the media buying community comes as the row between thelondonpaper and London Lite shows no sign of abating.

Steve Goodman, managing director of print trading at Group M, says the issue calls into question the ABC’s methodology in calculating circulation figures for free newspapers. He says: "The ABC is doing a reasonable job but there is more to be done. There are costs that need to be carried, say for increasing its spot-checking on distributors. Maybe the publishers could help with these."

Vizeum head of press and digital Alex Randall says it also shows that publishers should have been more communicative towards media buyers over the issue. He says: "No one approached us about problems with rogue distributors, which raises the question how big is the problem?"The londonpaper has now upped the ante by running its own ad in the trade press in response to what it terms an "outrageous" ad by London Lite.

Thelondonpaper general manager Ian Clark says: "The essence of our ad is that Associated is using dirty tricks to smear us."

London Lite’s provocative ad, which also ran in the trade press, followed its release of a video allegedly showing thelondonpaper distributors dumping bundles of the freesheet on three different occasions.

Associated was unavailable for comment as Marketing Week went to press.

The ABC says it has a strict compliance procedure in place, adding that it "takes any transgression of the reporting standards very seriously".

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