Posts Tagged ‘Ian Hislop’

Ian Hislop’s philosophy at Private Eye

January 11, 2018
Private Eye editor Ian Hislop is interviewed by Al Murray on Chain Reaction

Private Eye editor Ian Hislop is interviewed by Al Murray on Chain Reaction

Comedian Al Murray – the ‘Pub Landlord’ – interviewed Private Eye editor Ian Hislop in the latest episode of BBC Radio 4’s Chain Reaction yesterday. It’s worth catching up online to hear the team captain on Have I Got News for You discuss the cut and thrust of British politics, making social history documentaries and his editorial philosophy on the satirical magazine. He sees his job as to:

Make jokes about what people know and then tell them things they don’t know.

He knows the cartoons are as important as the words and has a strong feel for history and the influence of Punch (and where that satire giant went wrong). As well as his long-running career in print satire – he has been Private Eye editor since 1986 – Hislop wrote with Nick Newman for Harry ‘Loadsamoney’ Enfield, basing the ‘Terribly Nice But Dim’ Tim character on a public school friend, as well as Spitting Image (‘It took us 11 years but we got Thatcher out!’) in the 1980s.

One of the many covers in Private Eye's battle to expose Robert Maxwell

One of the many covers in Private Eye’s battle to expose Robert Maxwell

What’s it like being sued? Private Eye‘s tribulations on this front are legendary, one resulting in Robert Maxwell launching Not Private Eye as a form of revenge, both for the corrupt media tycoon and many other ‘victims’ of the satirical fortnightly.

Hislop says he has faced 40 libel cases and won just one.

He is particularly vociferous about the Sonia Sutcliffe case, in which a jury initially awarded damages of £600,000, which would have added up to £1.5m  with costs.

That resulted in the reaction: ‘It that’s justice, I’m a banana.’  The damages were lowered on appeal. The case then sparked a change in British law so that damages are no longer set by juries.

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