Weidenfeld weighs into Bauer war magazine row

 

George Weidenfeld, one of the most venerable figures in book publishing, has added his voice to the row about media group Bauer’s decision to publish a magazine that is said to glorify German Second World War soldiers.

Lord Weidenfeld, the co-founder of Weidenfeld & Nicolson, is understood to have written to Ofcom, urging the British media regulator to look at the German military magazine Der Landser.

His letter follows similar complaints from the London media banker Bruce Fireman and Liberal Democrat peer Lord Palmer, who want Ofcom to look at whether Kiss FM owner Bauer is a “fit and proper” broadcaster.

Mr Fireman claims Bauer’s decision to publish Der Landser also raises questions about the company’s suitability to buy Absolute Radio in Britain, a planned deal that Ofcom must approve.

In a further sign of pressure on Bauer, it is believed that MPs are considering drawing up an Early Day Motion about Der Landser.

Ofcom would not comment on any letters it has received but said it has begun gathering information in response to the complaints, before deciding whether to investigate Bauer formally.

Ofcom said it is in contact with Germany’s Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Minors, the regulator responsible for monitoring issues such as coverage of war atrocities.

“Ofcom has a duty to be satisfied on an ongoing basis that the holder of a broadcasting licence is ‘fit and proper’,” an Ofcom spokesman said. “We would assess any relevant evidence that would help us discharge this duty.”

Bauer, which also publishes heat and Grazia, said all its publications “comply fully with the laws in force in Germany” and emphasised none of them “trivialise or glorify National Socialism or war crimes”.

The company added: “Der Landser has been reviewed repeatedly by the Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Minors. In over 25 years, these reviews have not resulted in any objections.”

Even so, it said: “We take the ongoing public criticism in this respect extremely seriously.”

Lord Weidenfeld could not be immediately reached for comment. He is the most high-profile figure to intervene in the row.

Born in Austria in 1919, he moved to Britain just before the Second World War and his company was unafraid to publish controversial books including Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel Lolita.

His Who’s Who entry says that he writes regularly for German papers, including Die Welt and Bild am Sonntag.

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