|The Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) has cleared the publishers of The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Herald Sun of any breaches of the ABC Rules & Guidelines following an extensive investigation into allegations that the publishers were misreporting their Education Sales.
The investigation, completed by the ABC and reported to the ABC's Executive Committee earlier this week, also highlighted a lack of understanding of the ABC Rules and transparency surrounding subscriptions as what fuelled the allegations in the trade press.
Dr Stephen Hollings ABC Chairman indicated that there had been confusion between the definitions of Education Sales and Individual Subscriptions and the differences between supply of newspapers and what was actually eligible to be counted in final net paid sales figures. He noted the time that the investigation had taken was because of the thoroughness of the process and the detail required from publishers by the Bureau. Because of this, he described the outcome of the investigation as a positive for the industry noting ‘Advertisers and media buyers can remain assured of the integrity of ABC audited data and the accountability of ABC's publisher members.'
He said there are two issues here, ‘The first is whether the existing rules have been adhered to which has been the case. The second is whether we can develop rule changes that enhance further the transparency around paid sales and this is what the Rule Review Committee has already started to address.'
The report noted that while the ABC Rules and Guidelines do not require publishers to report how subscriptions are fulfilled, the ABC recognises the value of exploring the reporting of individual subscriptions delivered to individuals and those delivered through 3rd party addresses.
Tracie Michael, ABC Deputy Chair and chief executive officer, Australia of Initiative said ‘The investigation reaffirms the trust associated with the ABC brand and the important relationship media buyers have with audited print media. One of the strengths of the ABC's Rules is that they have never remained static and continually evolve to meet the needs of the industry. The investigation has highlighted the potential for greater transparency in the reporting of subscriptions and in particular those delivered to third party addresses.'
Tracie added, ‘Member's commitment to the rule review's weekly meetings ensures the rules will evolve to address the changing industry in a timely and responsible way. As always the Advertisers and media buyers will be active participants and look forward to the introduction of more transparent reporting of audited data.‘
The sub-committee will meet in the offices of the ABC each Wednesday during November, December 2010 and January 2011. The General Committee who will be updated with progress reports during the schedule will meet to endorse proposed changes before going to a vote by members.
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