News of Yore: US Newspaper Comics Bootlegged in UK


British to Ban Comics With Imported Papers

E&P 3/18/50

The British Board of Trade’s decision to ban the import of comic supplements of American and other foreign newspapers is expected to stop the bulk in­flux of U. S. Sunday papers having such supplements after March 31. The British ban, originally scheduled to take effect March 8, was later stayed until March 31.

John Block & Co., freight for­warders of bulk shipments of Sunday copies of the New York Daily News, the New York Daily Mirror and the Chicago Tribune, had orders to continue shipments that would arrive be­fore the March 31 deadline. But Block officials expected the business to cease after that date.

Mirror Comments
The Mirror observed editorially: “As nearly as we can tell, this new decree will keep out of Britain all but one or two American Sunday papers, which hardly, by themselves, offer a fully rounded picture of our American thought and life.”

Circulation Manager William Denhart of the Daily News in­dicated no plans were being made to ship the papers minus the comics.

Observers familiar with the British situation thought the British distributors who receive the American newspapers would not be eager to distrib­ute them minus comic supple­ments. The papers forwarded in bulk are at least five days old by the time they arrive. While circulation figures were not available, it was understood that one New York paper regu­larly ships as many as 7,000 Sunday copies. The Newark (N. J.) Star Ledger had been shipping about 3,000 copies of Sunday over­issues to Britain per week up until two months ago. This dis­posal of over-issues, which could not be counted on circu­lation, was discontinued be­cause it did not pay off, officials said.

$520,000 Worth
The British move, aimed pri­marily at U. S. supplements but covering other foreign countries as well, was designed primarily to save dollars and not to “clamp down on the world flow of news,” a Board official told E&P’s London cor­respondent. A survey made by the Board for the 12 months ending in June, 1949, showed that about $520,000 worth of newspapers with comic supplements was imported from the U. S., and that of this amount about $400,000 worth was imported in order that the comic supple­ments might be sold separately.

“It won’t mean a big loss for the U. S. newspapers, but it was a frightful waste for a country short of dollars,” the Board official said.

U. S. syndicate officials, not directly affected by the ban, were nevertheless aware of a British situation involving the “bootlegging of comics” that had grown up as a result of an earlier British ban on Ameri­can comic books. The ban on importation of American comic books was placed soon after the war start­ed, according to one syndicate official. The selling of comic supplements separately, and at prices higher than the whole newspaper would ordinarily sell for, has filled the comic books gap, it was pointed out.

Some syndicate salesmen be­lieve the ban on importation of American comic supplements may be a wedge for selling more American strips to Brit­ish newspapers.

Protested by ANPA
A columnist in the Evening Standard, London, remarked rather archly: “Our own recol­lections of the comics were not such as to make it seem likely that it could be the subject of an international smuggling traf­fic.” He said that “once inside the country these (American) newspapers were discarded, but the supplements retained and sold for vast sums.”

General manager Cranston Williams of the American News­paper Publishers Association has protested the British ban on importation of supplements to Secretary of State Dean Acheson. “At the present time when there is every effort to encourage the free flow of com­munications between nations it is difficult to reconcile the ac­tion taken by the British Board of Trade,” he wrote. “Granted that comics do not represent news, still they do depict phases of American life which would lead to a greater understanding between nations and peoples.”

The Daily News editorially suggested: “U. S. reprisals for this stab at a small bit of our foreign trade would be easy to take. We think they’d better be taken, too, lest the British Socialists be encouraged to ex­tend this dirty little boycott principle to other and larger items.”

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