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Booze ad ban plan will ‘cripple’ newspapers, industry chiefs warn

John McLellan 1A threat to ban alcohol advertising in newspapers could publishers up to £1.5m a year, industry chiefs have warned.

The Scottish Newspaper Society has hit out at the Scottish Government’s plan, which it says could wipe out one-eighth of advertising revenues and “cripple” local newspapers.

The warning by the SNS comes after it surveyed Scottish news publishers about the impact of the proposed ban.

It believes the move could force UK-wide publishers to either produce Scotland-only editions of single edition magazines or not distribute in Scotland at all, while the viability of the Scottish Press Awards – which is sponsored by Diageo, Edrington and Glenmorangie – could also be threatened.

SNS director John McLellan, pictured, said: “The Scottish Government’s threat to alcohol advertising and marketing in newspapers and magazines is based on little more than a whim that children might be influenced by what they might come across in publications primarily aimed at and read by adults, and limited anecdotal evidence that some people struggling with addictions might relapse if they see an advert.

“The consultation paper produces no concrete evidence to prove the extent of the effect of advertising in news brands on children or people suffering addiction issues, yet the clear intention is to knock this leg from under our businesses and cripple them in the process.

“The justification for such a draconian approach is in case advertising migrates to news brands if it is banned elsewhere, as if there are audiences in search of alcohol adverts who will migrate too.

“It is only a theory amongst the civil servants who produced the consultation document that the effect of reducing adverts in other media would be impaired by the continued availability of marketing in news brands, and that’s no basis on which to inflict serious harm on our already very hard-pressed sector.”

Those who took part in the survey voiced concerns that the proposal would:

  • Result in the loss of up to an eighth of advertising revenues, around £1.5m for bigger publishers in years with major events like World Cups.
  • Threaten “best-buy” features from drinks writers and potentially subject drinks-related editorial coverage to legislation.
  • Force UK-wide publishers to either produce Scotland-only editions of single edition magazines or not distribute in Scotland at all.
  • End wine clubs as a feature in Scottish news publications.
  • Destroy tourism-related publications, on which many independent publishers rely.
  • Threaten the viability of the Scottish Press Awards, which is supported by Diageo, Edrington and Glenmorangie.

A consultation on the proposal is open until 9 March.

In a foreword to the consultation document, Marie Todd, Scotland’s Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport, said: “By restricting alcohol marketing in Scotland we hope to reduce the appeal of alcohol to our young people.

“This will support a reduction in consumption of alcohol and subsequently improve their health and health prospects as adults.

“It will also reduce the potential triggering effect that alcohol marketing can have on heavy drinkers and those in recovery or treatment.

“Restricting alcohol marketing will also support our ambition to change our troubled relationship with alcohol.”

HTFP has attempted to seek further comment from the Scottish Government about the concerns raised by the SNS.