The Audit Bureau of Circulations has come under fire from the publisher of Fast Car magazine following a climb-down in a ruling which could have resulted in all of Emap’s car titles being banned from ABC membership.
The row follows an ABC warning last year that, should any of Emap’s car titles again be found to have contravened its rules, the whole portfolio would be excluded from membership.
Although Revs magazine has been excluded this time, the rest of the titles, including Max Power, have escaped the ban.
The latest breach of the rules involves a misleading ABC figure which appeared in five consecutive issues of Revs from last October.
According to Fast Car publisher SPL, Emap quoted the higher July to December 1999 ABC figure, rather than the lower January to June 2000 figure.
SPL complained to the ABC in January and asked it to carry out its original ruling.
Emap claimed the breach was a result of "human error" — the same explanation given previously.
In a report, the ABC said that its previous chief executive had gone "beyond his authority by introducing an automatic (or hanging) penalty and also by extending the penalty to titles which had not infringed the rules".
Clive Foskett, managing director of SPL, said the outcome was "absolutely disgraceful".
"It is not as if this is an isolated incident. Emap has been infringing ABC rules for at least five years," he told Press Gazette.
"The ABC was quite keen to hush all this up but my next step is to bring it out into the public domain.
"It must be left to the discernment of all concerned and all ABC members whether the ABC supports its decisions or is always prepared to reverse them in the light of opposition from large publishing companies.
"That question and its answer is the real issue that must be considered as a result of this current situation," he added.
Malcolm Gough, chief executive of Emap Automotive, said: "Obviously, in 40 years of publishing it is disappointing to see the first of our automotive titles excluded from membership.
"We are ardent supporters of ABC and we will take the penalty on the chin."
by Ruth Addicott