The New Statesman, once Britain's leading left-wing publication but now burdened with a pounds 2m debt, has gone into administration following weeks of renewed speculation about its future. The administrators, Grant Thornton, will now invite offers from parties interested in buying the title.
Among those who may come forward are ex-Tory MP Derek Coombs, and Philip Whitehead, the fomer Labour MP and TV producer. Another likely player is Philip Jeffrey, the socialist millionaire who was majority stockholder. However, Mr Jeffrey's continued involvement is by no means assured. He had proposed a refinancing package which was rejected by the New Statesman's trustees late last year. Just before Christmas, he said he would withdraw. A day later he reportedly pledged he was willing to "buy back" the magazine.
"I suspect he will be in the bidding," says Statesman director Pat Coyne. "The fact that we're going into administration is an attempt to rebuild the balance sheet." Not before time, some might say. The New Statesman's circulation has been in decline for years. Weekly sales currently stand at 20,000.
Reprieve for children's TV ads
British broadcasters heaved a collective sigh of relief last week when the European Parliament's culture committee overturned a proposal to ban advertising in breaks around children's programmes, including broadcast sponsorship. But they are not off the hook yet. "The prospect of stricter advertising guidelines remains," says Sue Eustace, ITV's head of European affairs.
MEPs voted in favour of an amendment to the new European broadcasting directive allowing member states to ban non-domestic channels broadcasting "controversial" advertising - such as for alcohol or toys. "Allowing individual countries to block certain channels acts against the spirit of the directive which aims to harmonise TV - and advertising - legislation throughout Europe," Eustace says. "Meanwhile, a Swedish campaign still aims to bring European legislation in line with its own. Sweden bans all advertising to children around children's programmes and limits other advertising which may interest under-l2s." This is affecting mainstream advertisers such as McDonald's.
Consumer groups here are disappointed that no outright advertising ban was agreed. John Bayer, of the Viewers and Listeners Association, pledges: "The campaign for tougher restrictions will continue." Like many, he objects to advertisers reaching parents through the "pester power" of their children.
Heineken fails to reach ...
Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of the Heineken sponsorship executive Justus Kos - he of the leaked fax complaining that too many "negroes" featured in ITV's Friday-night music show Hollywood Babylon.Heineken refuses to comment on Mr Kos's future with the company. Callers asking for him are informed, "I'm sorry, we've never heard of him." Which may be the truth, since Mr Kos works from the Amsterdam office.
One might say the whole thing was publicity for the show. If one were very cynical, one might even say how fortunate that the leak reached the papers the day the first programme was aired - more than two weeks after the memo was faxed on 20 December.
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