The Co-operative Group's decision decision to not sell lads' magazines without "modesty" bags has been described as "astonishing" and "disturbing" by publishers.
The publisher of the Sport newspapers has agreed to be bagged, but Loaded, Nuts, Zoo and Front magazines have yet to inform the retailer whether they will adopt the bags by the 9 September deadline.
Nuts publisher IPC said it was “astonishing” that the supermarket had issued the ultimatum through the media without consulting publishers first. It pointed out that the Co-op’s suggestion has not been greeted by publishers or campaigners.
“The content and covers of Nuts are perfectly legal and the magazine is enjoyed by over half a million UK consumers – both men and women – every week,” a spokesperson said.
“IPC Media supports the responsible display of all men’s magazines and guidelines created by the industry through the Professional Publishers Association (PPA), and endorsed by the Home Office and recommended by the Bailey Review.
“These guidelines – which have been supplied to all retailers – include the use of modesty boards, if a retailer deems them appropriate for its customers. If displayed according to the guidelines, men’s magazines will not be in the eye line of children.”
Nuts magazine yesterday started a Twitter campaign,.
Loaded editor James Wallis described the move by the Co-Op as “a very real threat to the free press and freedom of speech in the UK”.
He added: “The precedent that is potentially being set here is disturbing. We trust common sense and the right to an uncensored media will prevail.”
His words echoed those of Loaded owner Paul Baxendale-Walker who said that the presence of lads’ magazines in supermarkets was no worse than unhealthy food.
“I don’t suppose that the glimpse of a pretty girl in a bikini by a child has ever caused that child serious harm of any kind,” he said.
“I would have thought it is rather more important to try to protect kids from additives, chocolate, soft drinks and fat foods so let's plastic wrap everything."
Bauer Media, which publishes Zoo, said it had already begun making an effort to change the title’s cover imagery and phrasing, but did not say whether it would comply with the modesty bag request.
A spokesperson said: “We already have agreements in place with all major retailers, including Co-op, to ensure Zoo magazine is displayed appropriately and we work closely with all our retailers to ensure they are adhered to.”
Campaign group Lose the Lads’ Mags said the Co-op had not gone far enough, and wants the magazines out of the supermarket altogether.
It has previously met with representatives from Tesco and is to do so again. In the meantime, the group has called for a boycott of Tesco to take place on 24 August.