The folks at The Wall Street Journal and its parent News Corporation must be heaving a sigh of relief after the UK’s newspaper-circulation auditor found “no clear evidence” of noncompliance in an unusual deal that inflated the subscription figures for The Wall Street Journal Europe. The statement by the Audit Bureau of Circulation is remarkable for its brevity (just 157 words), and it provides no accompanying detail regarding the scope or findings of its inquiry.
Roy Greenslade of The Guardian assails the audit group’s findings, and cites its many omissions, including its failure to investigate whether the WSJE compromised its editorial process in the course of the arrangement:
The ABC does not address the very controversial matter of the WSJE having entered into a deal with ELP in which the company was guaranteed editorial coverage in return for buying copies at one cent a copy.
Surely that is a highly relevant factor and, at its heart, the most important feature of the scandal.
Similarly, the statements make no reference to the fact that third parties were making payments on the WSJE’s behalf to ELP.
With all that Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation are dealing with in the UK over phone hacking, they surely must be relieved to close this matter, however many questions remain. Sinister behavior at their tabloids is bad enough, but shady business deals involving the valued WSJ brand would be a serious blow.