Castor opts to set up 'ABC Middle East'

The body set up to drive print auditing in the Middle East wants a regional audit bureau to be established, Campaign can reveal.

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By  Tim Addington Published  April 23, 2006

The body set up to drive print auditing in the Middle East wants a regional audit bureau to be established, Campaign can reveal. The call from the Circulation Audit Steering Organisation (Castor) comes after the Audit Bureau of Circulation UK quit the Middle East claiming that it was taking up too much of its resources. The decision by ABC UK left just BPA Worldwide as the only circulation-auditing firm currently active in the region. Campaign understands that during a recent meeting of Castor members, concerns were raised about the BPA’s ability to manage the increased workload as a result of ABC’s decision. It agreed to help set up a regional audit body, and is writing to potential firms such as accountants and existing audit companies to see if they would be interested in establishing a Middle East audit bureau. David Sheridan, Castor spokesman and regional director at MindShare, said: “We would welcome an ABC in the generic sense in the Middle East and are currently exploring potential business partners to do this. “We would like to find somebody to step forward to create an ABC Middle East. This would have to be a new company. We have agreed to approach a few people to see if they would be would be interested in seeing this as a new business opportunity.” But he added: “It can’t be just a bunch of auditors. It has to be people who understand the business and know about newspapers and magazines.” Any region-wide audit bureau is likely to take months to set up, and Castor’s decision has angered BPA, which has committed to the region, and claims that it can easily manage all audit requirements. Stuart Wilkinson, director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at BPA, said Castor’s decision to help form a local ABC was unfair. He said: “Castor set out to be a committee to approve the various auditors wanting to work in the market. With ABC UK’s exit it is understandable that they are looking to invite accountancy firms to become approved under Castor guidelines. “They were keen from the outset not to have one company handling the market – the idea being that competition will ensure that the best service prevails. The Castor guidelines aim to establish the minimum criteria for audit reporting and audit methodology that all Castor approved auditors must adhere to. “They should not be looking to set up a new ‘ABC’ entity as by implication this would favour one auditor over another and run counter to their competition ethos.” But publishers concerned that the pull-out of ABC would result in a lack of choice have welcomed Castor’s move. Burjor Patel, vice president of marketing at the Khaleej Times, which had previously been audited by the ABC UK, said: “We are in favour of a regional ABC, and we would welcome a regional ABC body that would be called ABC. “It is something that we would be in favour of joining. We would definitely work with anyone that was interested in setting up.” Ian Fairservice, group editor and managing partner at Motivate Publishing, said: “I think it’s a great initiative and probably long overdue. Perhaps ABC UK pulling out so suddenly from the region will prove to have given the industry a wake-up call. “We are disappointed that the three magazines we had with ABC will not now benefit from the previous work in establishing those audits but will move them straight across to BPA who are also already handling three other Motivate titles. This will not alter our commitment to have all Motivate magazines audited by 2007. To achieve this though, I hope BPA can handle the increased workload and that Castor follow through quickly.” Walid Akawi, CEO at ITP, publishers of Campaign, added: “Even the BPA recognises the need for there to be a choice of circulation auditors, which is why it competes against the ABC in the UK.” The ABC UK quit the Middle East claiming that the region was taking up too much of its resources. A statement from the company at the time, said: “Against this evolving market and the subsequent need for greater local resources from ABC UK, it has been necessary to review our strategy for providing circulation audits in the Middl e East.” The company claimed that it was “very willing” to help establish a regional ABC.

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