U.K. Auditor: 'No Clear Evidence' of Wall Street Journal Europe Circulation Inflation

Rupert Murdoch-driven from his apartment-2011
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The Audit Bureau of Circulations verdict is some good news for the the newspaper operations of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

NEW YORK - In some good news for the beleaguered newspaper operations of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., the U.K. newspaper circulation auditor said Wednesday that it found "no clear evidence" that the Wall Street Journal Europe artificially inflated its figures.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations said though that it would review its reporting standards to ensure greater clarity.

News Corp.'s U.K. newspaper division has been in the spotlight amid phone hacking allegations. And late last year, the publisher of the WSJ Europe stepped down due to what was described as ethical issues related to the company's circulation deal with Dutch consulting firm ELP. Articles that featured ELP hadn't disclosed the relationship.

According to reports, ELP paid 1 eurocent to take 12,000 copies of the WSJ Europe a day, a sizable percentage of the paper's circulation, but the partners denied any wrongdoing.

"The payment arrangements underlying this contract were complex and at times circuitous, but ABC has found no clear evidence that these copies should be regarded as not compliant," the circulation auditor said Wednesday.

Journal publisher Dow Jones, part of News Corp., said it was happy with the results, highlighting "that has been our position from the outset."

But it emphasized that it would stay away from similar circulation deals in the future. "We have already acknowledged publicly that while the copies were properly counted under ABC rules, the program itself was unnecessarily complex and not one we will replicate in the future," the firm said.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai