Independent Newspapers Cape
19 October 1998

Rory Wilson: Managing Director
John Lloyd: Marketing and Sales Director

Good morning, Chairperson and committee members. Thank you for the opportunity to present the views of our company at these public hearings.

Our company, Independent Newspapers Cape, publishes the Cape Argus, Weekend Argus, Cape Times and twelve community newspapers in the Cape Peninsula.

Before we summarise our position on this matter, we feel that it is necessary to point out that our newspapers operate on the principle of editorial independence. Our aim is to publish newspapers that reflect a wide range of fact, comment and opinion so that our readers have all the evidence before them before taking a view on any subject. This, we believe, is an important part of the democratic process.

Our editors are responsible for the entire content of their newspapers, both editorial content and advertising content. This committee will understand our concern when legislation is proposed that will further restrict the rights of a group of advertisers to promote their products. Is there not a danger that the rights of other advertisers in carrying out their lawful business will be proscribed at some other time and under some other pretext?

We also need to record that our editors in exercising their editorial independence have generally supported the Minister in her attempts to reduce the harmful effects of smoking particularly in the case of children.

However, while our newspapers might not have supported the tobacco lobby, we do support the right of the tobacco producers to promote their products within reasonable bounds.

In summary our position is as follows:
1. We acknowledge the health risks associated with tobacco consumption.
2. We support the contention that tobacco should remain a legal product for adults. There is no intention at this stage to make it illegal to consume or use tobacco products.
3. Broadly speaking we support the view of the minister that there should be legislation to protect children from the harmful effects of tobacco.
4.The focus of the debate before this committee is not about the health risks of smoking; rather it is about how far Parliament should go in restricting the rights of those who wish to use tobacco products. We urge caution in the unilateral and ill-considered restriction of rights of commercial enterprises to promote and sell their wares.
5.The overwhelming readership of newspapers - 95% of newspaper readers - are over the age of 18. To place a total ban on all tobacco advertising in newspapers therefore does not achieve the objective of the Minister to protect the rights of children.
6. We agree that lifestyle advertising of tobacco products might be specially attractive to children and we would support a ban on this type of tobacco advertising rather than a total ban on all tobacco advertising.

Independent Newspaper Holdings (the entire Independent Newspaper group) will lose approximately R14.5 million in national advertising revenue. This would possibly result in the retrenchment of staff as this loss, coupled with current economic conditions, would be a severe setback. The knock-on effect would be the reduction of newspaper sizes. This is due to the fact that advertising support determines the size of newspapers.

This will a setback to a media who’s role is to inform and educate, especially in the area of promoting literacy. However, the much more important issue is the precedent that is now being set to deny a group of advertisers their right to promote their products.

Our recommendations: We believe that the focus of this Committee’s attention should be on the content of tobacco advertising rather than banning it completely.

We support fully the publication of health risk warnings in tobacco advertising. The committee should be mindful of the fact that these powerful messages will no longer appear if tobacco advertising is banned completely.

We also support fully the principle of tobacco advertisers not using "lifestyle" advertising in their communication, but being restricted to a "brand" only approach.

We thank the committee for allowing Independent Newspapers Cape to present at this hearing.