Crikey reporter Sophie Black writes:

The Audit Bureau of
Circulations have quietly put forward a new set of guidelines for
circulation audits following their three-month review process – the
only catch is they’re confidential. And there still doesn’t seem to be
an independent body taking part in the review process. In fact, it’s
been left to publishers to assess the new guidelines.

Adnews
reports that the ABC has “taken the safe route of adopting a set of
guidelines and implementing a consultation committee before making any
sweeping changes to how publishers collect and report circulation data.”

Following its three-month review process, at its annual
general meeting today (Thursday) the ABC put forward a new set of
guidelines, which publishers have three months to assess and report
back to the ABC board.

While details of the changes are
confidential, proposed changes include implementing quarterly audits,
cross checking retailers’ sales data with publishers’ own records and
making sure auditors are better briefed.

Hollings said while
Australia had been spared the embarrassment of the US experience –
where publishers faced criminal charges over inaccurate circulation
reporting – the integrity of the audit bureau must be preserved.

The
ABC and its in-principle changes were today commended by the Magazine
Publishers of Australia (MPA), Australian Association of National
Advertisers (AANA) and the Media Federation of Australia (MFA).

The
ABC has set 1 July 2006 as the final date for implementing the
guidelines. Crikey asked Gloria Jarman, Executive Director of the ABC,
when the review was meant to be completed and if results would be made
public. She answered, “we don’t have a crystal ball.”

CRIKEY:
The stench of something fishy won’t go away when it comes to newspaper
and magazine publishers and their “audited” circulation figures. And
the reason for that is that most senior people in the media industry know
there’s rorting going on. Crikey has published more than 50 accounts of
circulation rorting this year – and we’ll publish more if we find out
more. To dismiss those claims because they come from unnamed sources is
a dumb as suggesting that Richard Nixon did nothing wrong because the
allegations against him came from unnamed sources.

There’s only
one way the ABC can transparently address this issue – by introducing
truly independent scrutiny of the circulation process. But that’s
precisely what the newspaper and magazine industry – an industry
devoted to uncovering rorts wherever they happen everywhere else in
society – won’t do. Why? Because they know independent scrutiny will
blow their rort-infested industry apart.

Not good enough.