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The Press: TIME Ban

4 minute read

In Piccadilly Circus one day last week newsboys were heard crying: “Step right up and get it—TIME, the banned book!” Many Londoners stepped up, because, only a fortnight before, much had been made of the banning of TIME in England.

Small potatoes, as circulation itself, is TIME’S circulation abroad. Besides the 4,000 copies mailed to subscribers, some 3,300 copies have crossed the Atlantic each week for newsstand distribution in the British Isles and on the Continent. This has been chiefly for the convenience of U. S. citizens living and traveling abroad, although an increasing number of Europeans read TIME. During the past year TIME has got into difficulties in the four most important European countries.*

In Germany single issues were frequently banned from the newsstands. Last May Gestapo Chief Heinrich Himmler signed an order banning all future issues of TIME from Germany (TIME, May 29). The week before, TIME had carried Herr Himmler’s picture on its cover, had chronicled his career. Newsstand circulation of the magazine amounted to about 75 copies.

In Italy early this month TIME was banned from all newsstands “until further notice.” The ban followed publication of an article about Mussolini’s daughter, Edda Ciano. The circulation affected was about 50 copies a week.

In France last month much was ado about an article in TIME appraising the Paris press. TIME had said out loud what many Parisians had for years been saying in lively whispers. Publisher Henry Robinson Luce, holidaying abroad, stepped off a train at St. Lazare to find that he had been sued for 5,000,000 francs by the Paris Press Association. But France’s still democratic Government took no action, and TIME remained on French newsstands. Publisher Luce expressed regrets for TIME’S too-general indictment of the Parisian press. Fortnight later the Government, in an effort to put an end to venality, arrested a brace of journalists on charges of taking money from foreign countries. Thus public opinion in Paris was thoroughly aroused to the question of honesty-in-j ournalism.

In England distribution of magazines is largely controlled by the National Association of Wholesale Newsagents, whose most prominent member is the firm of

W. H. Smith & Son. W. H. Smith & Son are not only news agents, but also booksellers, stationers, bookbinders, advertising agents, printers, librarians (with 690 lending libraries) and operators of 1,422 railway and subway bookstalls, 357 shops in London and the provinces. They employ 4,000 bicycling newsboys, operate a fleet of 400 big red trucks. Head of this vast near-monopoly is the black-mustached, punctiliously correct Viscount Hambleden, grandson of an office boy who was adopted by the first Smith’s son. The present Lord Hambleden is religious, pacifistic, nervous. Last month three raffish young British pilots drew indefinite suspensions from the Royal Air Force after they had released streamers of toilet paper over his Thames Bank estate.

It was Lord Hambleden’s company and its satellites in the news agents’ association which, without warning, one day announced that TIME would be banned from their newsstands. Rumor had it that Lord

Hambleden was shocked by what he read about Countess Edda Ciano in TIME, but at first no reason was given for the ban. Questioned by the daily press, which saw something dangerously approaching censorship, the wholesalers attributed the ban to their fear of libel suits. In the 15 years it has been circulated in Great Britain TIME has never been sued for libel. Though startled by the ban in a country which boasts of its free press, TIME planned no action, left the business of Britain’s press censorship up to Britain’s press itself.*

Without distribution by the wholesalers, TIME lost about 1,500 circulation in England. But the wholesalers do not entirely control newsstand circulation. TIME’S distributors, Milton Gorringe Ltd., went straight to the retailers, sold some 750 copies on newsstands and on the streets last week.

*Japan, Cuba and Mexico have also occasionally banned issues of TIME. *As for Edda Ciano’s private life, it is a favorite topic of conversation among thousands of European socialites, sophisticates and Government officials.

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