Thursday 22 February 2018

Look-a-like Tribune was 'marketing exercise'

Tom Tuite

THE 'Irish Mail on Sunday' asked shopkeepers to display a 'Sunday Tribune' look-a-like edition on empty spaces previously reserved for the defunct newspaper, a court has heard.

Yesterday, Sebastian Hamilton, editor of the 'Irish Mail on Sunday', defended the decision to publish the edition -- saying it was a marketing exercise to gain new readers and not an attempt to mislead people.

Associated Newspapers Ireland, owners of the 'Irish Mail on Sunday', is being prosecuted by the National Consumer Agency (NCA) at Dublin District Court for breaching the Consumer Protection Act.

The watchdog brought the case after complaints by readers who bought the special edition on February 6 last thinking it was the 'Sunday Tribune', days after that paper went into receivership.

Some 26,000 copies of the 'Irish Mail on Sunday', priced at €1, with a wraparound cover similar in appearance to the 'Sunday Tribune' were distributed on the east coast.

Yesterday, Mr Hamilton said the "personalised" edition was designed to look "a bit like" the 'Sunday Tribune' to attract their readers.

Typefaces were in fonts used only by the 'Irish Mail on Sunday'; the front page listed some of their sections and contributors such as John Waters, Rachel Allen and Joe Brolly.

The words 'Sunday Tribune' were printed in a different size and the 'Irish Mail on Sunday' logo appeared on the edition's back page.

It also bore the legend "Your Quality Compact" which he said attracted criticism from former 'Sunday Tribune' editor Noirin Hegarty as this phrase had been used by that paper when it became "compact".

"It is a widespread journalistic phrase ever since broadsheets began to go tabloid," he said citing the 'London Times', the 'Independent' in the UK and 'The Times of India' as examples.

He described the number of people who complained that they had been misled as "microscopic" when compared to the 9,000 copies of the special edition which were sold.

He said the NCA had called five witnesses and that he personally had been contacted by just two people who were offered refunds. He said that he was sorry that they had made a mistake.


Mr Hamilton said the 'Sunday Tribune's readers were sophisticated and most people were aware that paper would not be appearing on the shelves.

Running the special edition was a chance to persuade them that the 'Irish Mail on Sunday' was a good alternative for them.

In cross-examination he denied that there was an attempt to deceive people.

"It is flashing them something they are familiar with, so they will say 'What the hell is this?' pick it up, 'it is the 'Mail on Sunday', Jesus', and either put it back or say 'You know what, for €1 give it a try'," Mr Hamilton told the court.

He agreed the packing docket sent to retailers stated it was important that the special edition be displayed on shop space hitherto reserved for the 'Sunday Tribune'.

He denied that there was an intention to mislead the public.

Closing submissions will be heard today.

Irish Independent

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