Archive for the ‘legal’ Category

On this day in magazines: Private Eye celebrates in 1981

February 13, 2017
Lord Goodman jumps out of a giant birthday cake on Private Eye's 500th issue cover in February 1981

Lord Goodman jumps out of a giant birthday cake on Private Eye’s 500th issue cover of 13 February 1981

Private Eye registered a sales figure last week at just over a quarter of a million copies an issue for the second half of 2016. Under editor Ian Hislop, it claims the high ground as the best-selling news and current affairs magazine.

The circulation per copy breaks down as 105,077 through newsagents, 142,833 subscriptions, 2,214 bulk sales and just 22 copies free. It total, that’s three million copies a year from its fortnightly mix of satire and investigative journalism. While the newspapers keep jacking up their prices – arguing readers will pay for quality reporting – but lose sales, the Eye holds its price at £1.80 and buyers and subscribers keep coming.

The cover above is from 13 February 1981, when the Eye was celebrating its 500th issue with a Willy Rushton cartoon. Out of the giant birthday cake festooned with writs jumps Lord Goodman – an early ally of Private Eye. Rupert Murdoch can be seen waiting on then editor Richard Ingrams in the top left and Gnitty, the magazine’s mascot Crusader, is also seated at a table. Around them are foes, friends and characters from the magazine.

A punning advert from Letraset for Private Eye's celebratory issue

A punning advert from Letraset for Private Eye’s celebratory 1981 issue

Although the magazine had survived many legal battles, such as the 1976 onslaught from James ‘Goldenballs’ Goldsmith who issued 60 writs against the Eye and its distributors in one month, many more were to come, including those with Robert Maxwell and his Not Private Eye. In 1990, Private Eye was threatened with closure when Sonia Sutcliffe was awarded £600,000 in libel damages. Hislop said that if this was justice he was ‘a banana’. The sum was reduced to £60,000 on appeal.

Inside the anniversary issue are many supportive advertisers, including Letraset, the makers of dry transfer lettering, a revolutionary British invention in its day, but now a French-owned brand mainly selling marker pens.

Private Eye‘s title was an early success for Letraset – the typographer Matthew Carter did the design, which saw its first outing on 18 May 1962 and is still in use today.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design


‘Maxwellisation’ is no excuse for Chilcot

September 16, 2015
John Kay's piece about Chilcot's 'Maxwellisation' at ft.com

John Kay’s piece about Chilcot’s ‘Maxwellisation’ at ft.com

Incisive piece in the FT by economist John Kay on the use of the word ‘Maxwellisation’ in the context of the Chilcot inquiry on the war in Iraq and the trumped-up excuses for delays in the findings being published.

Kay writes:

The use of the word ‘Maxwellisation’ to describe a process by which the rich and powerful obstruct criticism of their actions is, perhaps, an appropriate legacy for one of the most flamboyant and litigious crooks of recent times.

Too true. Maxwell owned Pergamon and fancied himelf as a Fleet Street newspaper baron, buying the Daily Mirror with its Watford printing plant, and founding the European. However, he used his wealth to stifle journalists probing the truth about his nefarious activities with legal threats, most famously in a mammoth battle with Private Eye. He then stole the pensions of Mirror Group employees in the 1980s. They are still having to live with the effects of Maxwell’s chicanery, the scale of which had not been seen since that of another publishing pioneer, former FT chairman and John Bull editor Horatio Bottomley.

‘Maxwellisation’ should be no excuse for the delays.

Horatio Bottomley – the swindling John Bull

May 4, 2014

Horatio Bottomley was the founder and editor of John Bull, one of the most popular magazines of the 20th century. This postcard promoting the magazine portrays Bottomley as an MP putting the prime minister Lloyd George in his place.

winston-churchill-reading-john-bull-magazineOther members of Lloyd George’s cabinet are shown consulting their copies of the magazine, including Winston Churchill. Bottomley was founding chairman of the Financial Times and twice a member of parliament – but also one of Britain’s biggest fraudsters. The magazine was the medium by which he promoted himself and his dodgy schemes, and not until Robert Maxwell did the media, in that case the Daily Mirror, help create such a monster.

Bottomley was founding chairman of the Financial Times but used it to promote his projects. He came to note in the courts in 1893 when he was able to defend his printing and publishing company, the Hansard Union, from bankruptcy and the fact that £100,000 had gone missing. In 1900, he failed to win election as an MP but won £1,000 in a libel case after he was described as a fraudulent company promoter and share pusher during the campaign. The Financial Times included him in a supplement titled ‘Men of Millions’.

Bottomley’s reputation in the courts dissuaded others from taking legal action – a strategy all used by the likes of Maxwell, known as the ‘Bouncing Czech’ in Private Eye. Maxwell even published a one-off magazine backed by himself and other enemies of Private Eye, Not Private Eye, after he won a court case against the magazine’s campaigns. Bottomley survived other cases against him but his taste for champagne and race horses led to him becoming bankrupt in 1912 and so he was forced out of parliament.

In 1906, Bottomley had founded John Bull with the help of Julius Elias (later Lord Southwell), managing director of the printers Odhams.  The magazine, with its belligerent stance, championing of the common man and prize competitions – including Bullets, which was akin to coming up with cryptic crossword clues – became incredibly successful once the war started. He tried to launch a women’s version, Mrs Bull, in 1910, though this was short-lived.

 John Bull cover from 1917 is a good example of Bottomley

This John Bull cover from 1917 is a good example of Bottomley’s self-promotion

Such was Bottomley’s popularity in wartime that he was despatched by David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill as an unofficial emissary, and persuaded shipwrights on the Clyde not to go on strike.  He toured the country to help recruitment and his visit to the western front was widely reported in the press. The Evening News even ran a poster saying ‘Bottomley Wanted’ to promote a story calling for him to join the cabinet and attacking the government after Haig’s offensive on the Somme failed. Such was the power of the press that Lord Northcliffe was appointed director of propaganda, his brother Lord Rothermere became air minister, and Daily Express owner Sir Max Aitken served as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and as minister for information (and in 1916 became Lord Beaverbrook). However, Bottomley never made it into government.

He was lauded in the music halls, with a 1915 song ‘Mr Bottomley – John Bull’ by Mark Sheridan.

According to the historian Niall Ferguson, ‘Horatio Bottomley’s John Bull was selling as many as two million copies by the end of the war, a figure beaten only by the new Sunday Pictorial [for which Bottomley also wrote a column for £150 a week, a massive sum that had to be personally approved by Lord Rothermere] and the News of the World.’

John Bull led to a cause célèbre in the film world when it accused the makers of what was intended to be an epic feature, The Life Story of David Lloyd George, of being German sympathisers. The Ideal Film Company sued John Bull and won the case in January 1919. Yet the film was never released, because the prints were bought – for £20,000 – by parties acting for Lloyd George. It  was lost until 1994 when it was found at the home of Lord Tenby (Lloyd George’s grandson).

Victory souvenir from John Bull made of metal from a German U-boat

Victory souvenir from John Bull made of metal from a German U-boat

The magazine also bought the Deutschland, a U-boat handed over by the Germans as part of the Armistice, and sailed it around Britain. It was broken up in Birkenhead in 1921 and the magazine sold badges that were: ‘Guaranteed to be made from metal forming part of the ex-German submarine Deutschland.’

In 1920, Beverley Nichols invited Bottomley to speak at the Oxford Union in support of a motion in favour of independent political parties. (Nichols became a popular writer and would go on to write a weekly column for Woman’s Own from 1946 to 1967). He described Bottomley in his book, 25:

A grotesque figure. Short and uncommonly broad, he looked almost gigantic in his thick fur coat. Lack-lustre eyes, heavily pouched, glared from a square, sallow face … It was not till he began to talk that the colour mottled his cheeks and the heavy hues on his face were lightened …

Bottomley won the motion, and Nichols records another aspect of the arrogance of the man – he was disappointed that he had not broken the record for the numbers in the audience at such debates. For breakfast next morning, he ordered, ‘A couple of kippers and a nice brandy and soda.’

Bottomley's Victory Bond club advertised in John Bull

Bottomley’s Victory Bond Club advertised in John Bull in 1919

With the end of war, Bottomley won a seat in the general election as an independent MP for Hackney South. However, the swindling of his Victory Bond Club, which was heavily promoted  in John Bull, was coming to light. Another magazine, Truth, warned its readers off the scheme and Bottomley issued several writs against it, which the magazine ignored. Bottomley also threatened wholesale newspaper distributors – a tactic John Major, the Conservative prime minister, used in 1993 to prevent distribution of the New Statesman when it carried an article about a supposed affair (in 2002, Major admitted having had a four-year affair with the former Conservative minister Edwina Currie from 1984). Reuben Bigland, a printer who had been slighted by Bottomley, had tracked his activities for years and his pamphlet ‘The downfall of Horatio Bottomley: His latest and greatest swindle’ prompted the MP to sue him for criminal libel and blackmail in October 1921. He lost and, along with Odhams, was fined £1000. Bottomley tried again on the blackmail charge, and lost again.

The country turned against him, with the Times thundering out, and Bottomley was committed for trial at the Old Bailey.  The Illustrated London News reported his trial, with the verdict being its front-page illustration (3 June 1922). Bottomley was sentenced to 7 years. Mr Justice Salter said:

You have been rightly been convicted by the jury of this long series of heartless frauds. These poor people trusted you and you have robbed them of £150,000 in ten months. The crime is aggravated by your high position.

Illustrated Evening News reports Bottomley's guilty verdict

Illustrated Evening News reports Bottomley’s guilty verdict in 1922

The report made reference to the Sword of Justice seen hanging on the courtroom wall. Bottomley had earlier told the jury that it would drop from its scabbard if he was found guilty: it did not fall.

Travers Humphreys, the prosecuting barrister, had lost a John Bull lottery prosecution to Bottomley in 1914 but succeeded this time. He wrote in his memoirs:

[In 1914] he was a brilliant advocate and a clever lawyer, though completely unscrupulous in his methods … In truth, it was not I who floored Bottomley, it was Drink. The man I met in 1922 was a drink-sodden creature whose brain could only be got to work by repeated doses of champagne.

In prison, he was recognised and seems to have been popular with many inmates because of John Bull‘s tradition of backing the working man and sending parcels to prisoners of war. A story is told that a padre came to visit and found the prisoner stitching mail bags:

Ah, Bottomley, sewing?
No, padre, reaping!

After prison, Bottomley portrayed his experiences in the manner of Oscar Wilde, with a poem ‘A Ballad of Maidstone Gaol’ by ‘Convict 13’ (his prison number). He also published a book, Songs of the Cell (1928), and toured the music halls. However, he was a sad sight in his later days and died on stage at the Windmill theatre in 1932. His ashes were scattered near his house, The Dicker, in Upper Dicker, near Eastbourne.

As for John Bull, sales plummeted from something like 1m-2m to 300,000 in 1922, but Odhams was able to pull it round as a serious and responsible paper. Within a year it was back selling a million copies a week. After world war two, John Bull relaunched itself with colour, illustrated covers and a focus on fiction from writers such as Agatha Christie and Neville Shute. However, with the advent of commercial television, its sales fell, like all the general interest weeklies, and it was relaunched in 1960 as Today. In this format, it survived until 1964, but it was a slow death for all the popular weeklies and it was taken over by Weekend.

Sources

The Rise and Fall of Horatio Bottomley: The biography of a swindler by Alan Hyman, Cassell, 1972 (well indexed)

Horatio Bottomley by Julian Symons, House of Stratus, 2001 (no index)

‘How the papers went to war’, by Niall Ferguson, 27 October 1998, Independent, p15

‘General weekly magazines’, Magforum.com. John Bull


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design


Spectator speaks out on Press control

November 28, 2012
Spectator December 1 2012

Spectator magazine cover

A day before the Leveson inquiry report is published, the Spectator has set itself against any statutory scheme to control the press apart from self-regulation. In an editorial entitled ‘Why we won’t sign’ (1 December 2012), it thunders:

‘If the press agrees a new form of self-regulation, perhaps contractually binding this time, we will happily take part. But we would not sign up to anything enforced by government.’

Magazines have been given little coverage in the controversy, but several were called to give evidence to the Leveson inquiry, including Hello!, Heat and OK!

The Spectator has lived under government control – it was founded in 1828 – with Stamp Duty, which was used to control distribution of newspapers and magazines, not being abolished until 1855.

This change created a free Press, enabled expansion and a way of meeting demand for reading material from the public – it’s easily forgotten that the works of many of the great Victorian writers were first published in magazines, from Dickens to Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. In the newspaper world, the Guardian went from twice weekly to daily publication.

The fortunes made by two magazine magnates – Alfred Harmsworth and Arthur Cyril Pearson – built on the invention of the New Journalism in magazines such as Tit-Bits to found the popular daily press – the Daily Mail, the Express and the Mirror.

Sam Delaney, a former editor of Heat, has warned that Leveson could end up muzzling the celebrity magazines:

Brace yourselves. By 2013, every title on the newsstand may well feature a gushing profile of Nancy Dell’Olio, lounging on a chaise longue ‘inside her beautiful home’

As the leaders of the political parties pore over the six copies of the Leveson report that were delivered to parliament this afternoon, the whole of the media awaits the next stage of the fallout from the phone-hacking scandal.

UK newspapers: Times readers run the country

Magazine timeline

IPC and the dangers of writing about Hitler

September 28, 2012

IPC has sent our press releases pushing the latest issue of NME, with the following at the bottom:

Please note, conditions apply to using the NME covers; the photographer and NME must both be credited, along with the copy ‘NME, on sale now’.

The company is on dodgy ground with such an approach. Who’s going to use the picture with that proviso? What happens next week when the issue’s no longer on sale?

The attitude of IPC was held up to ridicule after it claimed copyright over images of Hitler’s house from Homes and Gardens‘ November 1938 edition that the Guardian’s Simon Waldman had written about. IPC’s claims were exposed as spurious. The 1938 article, ‘Hitler’s mountain home’, by Ignatius Phayre describes the Berghof as ‘quite a handsome Bavarian chalet, 2,000 feet up on Obersalzberg amid pinewoods and cherry orchards’ with the funds coming from Hitler’s ‘famous book’ Mein Kampf, a ‘best-seller of astonishing power.

Ignatius Phayre wrote 5 pieces for the Catholic Herald in 1938-9 and did a profile of Edgar Wallace for Pictorial Weekly (‘Edgar – the amazing! A Henry Ford of fiction’, 16 Feb 1929). Amazon lists 6 books by that author, dating from 1911-33, with one being reprinted this year, America’s Day Studies in Light and Shade. The British Library gives his real name as William George FitzGerald.

Philsp.com has Phayre writing ‘War-Work of the King and Queen of Spain’ in The Girl’s Own Paper and Woman’s Magazine in Oct 1916.

A company like IPC has commerical rights to protect, but its business is built on journalism – and the rights of journalists need protecting too.

IPC profile

Ryan Giggs, super-injunctions and Tiger Woods

May 24, 2011
Sunday Herald Giggs front page at Indymedia.org.uk

Sunday Herald front page reveals Ryan Giggs affair

There was a surprise for me when I looked at my server logs for Sunday. One page had a thousand hits – when it would normally only rate a few dozen. Why? It was about the launch of Glasgow’s Sunday Herald newspaper in 1999. And the Sunday Herald was the paper that revealed that squeaky clean Ryan Giggs was the man who had taken out the super-injunction to stop a former lover spilling the beans about him.

And that’s not all I have to thank super-injunctions for. When US golfer Tiger Woods took out a super-injunction in 2009 to try and stop news of his shenanigans getting out, it was revealed that his middle name is ‘Tont’ – his full name is Eldrick Tont ‘Tiger’ Woods. Not many people know that.

WikiLeaks and newspaper censorship

November 29, 2010

‘[T]here has been a lot of ill-informed comment (and sometimes downright lies) about the role of the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee and the DA notice system which it regulates. Cries of censorship abound.’

So writes Simon Bucks of Sky, and vice-chair of the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee, which issues DA notices to the media – commonly referred to as the D notice committee. The WikiLeaks story about the US diplomatic cables has kicked it all off. Guido Fawkes and WikiLeaks itself are cited as misrepresenting the system.

Bucks then goes on to cut through the garbage with a lucid explanation of what the committee does and how the D notice system works. Required reading if you blog on the topic.

Sun readers don’t give a damn who runs the country

May 17, 2010

Running a website or blog, you’re used to your material being quoted or ripped off but it’s incredible how widely a piece can be picked up. This blog’s sister website Magforum.com has a page on British newspapers. The page begins by quoting a yellowed Guardian diary cutting from the 1980s that begins:

Times readers run the country,
Telegraph readers think they run the country,
Guardian readers wish they ran the country,
Mirror readers would run the country if…

Many web posts use it and quote the source; a Telegraph blog, for example, about Guardian-reading vets. Then there are those who just pick up things as they go. They include:

Wikipedia covers another version of the ryhme quoted in the TV series Yes Minister in 1986 (which I’m pretty sure ran after the Guardian item was published) and the British Democracy Forum has some other variants.

So from Jihad Watch to a South African policy debate; from a democracy forum to TV soap fans. Shows just how popular an idea can be. But, as the late, great Keith Waterhouse once told me: ‘I don’t use other people’s ideas [he was talking about one of mine when I was commissioning an article from him] because you never know where they’ve been.”

I did try to date the original Guardian cutting a few years ago (I think it’s 1980) but the librarians couldn’t help. If anyone does know the origins of the rhyme, I’d like to hear from them.

Dacre attacks Eady’s ‘privacy law by the back door’

November 11, 2008

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has launched an excoriating attack on one of England’s top judges, accusing him of making arrogant and amoral judgments in favour of celebrities that are creating de facto privacy laws.

Dacre’s condemnation of Justice David Eady comes in a talk to the Newspaper Society and published in the Guardian.

Eady has used the privacy clause of the Human Rights Act, says Dacre, to find ‘against newspapers and their age-old freedom to expose the moral shortcomings of those in high places’. Among the cases he quotes are that Eady had:

  • ruled that a cuckolded husband couldn’t sell his story to the press about a wealthy sporting celebrity who had seduced his wife. The judge had ‘placed the rights of the adulterer above society’s age-old belief that adultery should be condemned’; and
  • in effect ruled that it was acceptable for a multimillionaire head of a multibillion sport to pay women to take part in ‘acts of unimaginable sexual depravity’.
  • one man is given a virtual monopoly of all cases against the media, enabling him to bring in a privacy law by the back door.

Eady has had a ‘virtual monopoly’ of cases against the media, says Dacre, enabling him to bring in a privacy law by the back door.

Cost of court reporting soars

July 7, 2008

An earlier blog mentioned the chilling effect libel lawyer Peter Carter-Ruck had on press reporting – now it’s the courts themselves that are erecting barriers to discourage reporters from doing their jobs. Press Gazette quotes Castlemorton freelance Sarah Limbrick whose costs for accessing court documents shot up from £660 to £2,481 in just three months.

‘It is government policy to ensure fees reflect the full recovery of the cost involved in providing the service,’ said Mark Cram of Her Majesty’s Courts Service. And damn the public interest in the process, no doubt.

Maxwell will be chuckling in his grave over this one.