The National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) has warned that the proposed split in newspaper and magazine distribution will be “disastrous” for independent newsagents.

Finally revealing its hand on the Office of Fair Trading’s (OFT) draft opinion on the future of the news supply chain the NFRN, which represents nearly 20,000 independent newsagents in the UK, fears the imposition of different rules for newspapers and magazines would add costs and cause store closures.

The NFRN view contrasts to the Association of News Retailing (ANR) which believes proposals to allow passive selling of magazines by retailers is a step toward greater competition and a more efficient supply chain.

NFRN immediate past president Peter Wagg said retailers would bear the brunt of the increased costs that would result from divorcing newspaper and magazine distribution. “Different rules would be disastrous,” he said. “Rather than preserve the network of independent newsagents for the benefit of consumers as a whole, the OFT’s draft proposal could have the opposite effect.”

The federation wants the OFT to allow the news trade to produce a new and legally enforceable code of practice. The code would embrace controlled passive selling for newspapers and magazines, improvements within the supply chain, and introduce better news industry self-regulation under the watchful eye of an industry ombudsman.

The NFRN claims its approach has already received support among publishers and wholesalers.

However, the ANR, which mainly represents c-store news retailers, has welcomed the fact that the OFT’s draft ruling linked newspaper exclusive territories to the existing industry code of practice.

ANR managing director John Lennon said: “The code ensures all retailers will go on receiving newspapers and therefore magazines. This latter point calls into question scaremongering by the Periodical Publishers Association (PPA) that 20,000 retailers will go out of business. “We also welcome the small step toward competition through the introduction of passive selling but want to push further for a more efficient supply chain.”

A final decision from the OFT on the news supply issue is expected within months.

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