Letter: Press laws: right of reply, leaked reports, the 'Beano' and tame poodles

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The Independent Online
Sir: The press cries 'censorship' over proposals to restrict their intrusions of privacy and declares that democracy depends upon openness. However, if the boot is on the other foot, one finds a quite different attitude.

I have a book waiting to go to press, entitled Creativity and Popular Culture. It is to be published by Associated Universities Presses in the United States, and is an academic book which will sell, at most, a few hundred copies. In it I discuss the symbolism of the comics read by my own children in the Sixties, which reduced then to a state of transfixed concentration.

Wrongly, in my opinion, we asked for permission to reproduce these comic strips from the Scottish firm D. C. Thomson, which publishes the Sunday Post, the Weekly News and the Evening Telegraph of Dundee. They asked to see my text and I sent it. They replied that 'it would be inappropriate for our comic strips to be used to illustrate your book', and said 'you cannot expect us to give approval for the use of our copyright material in what we consider is an inappropriate context'.

In short, since they don't agree with what I said, they are not going to allow me to reproduce their material from the Beano to make my argument clear. That I am the Emeritus Fellow of a Cambridge college and the author of similar books on the symbolism of several writers and a composer cuts no ice with them. No criticism of their products must be allowed, even by a responsible educationist.

What the press means, I suspect, is that anything that makes money for them must be sacrosanct - democracy and Socratic debate be blowed.

Yours etc,

DAVID HOLBROOK

Cambridge

11 January

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