Fiction Monthly, December 2010
Fiction Monthly (小说月报), a low-cost digest magazine published out of Tianjin, is one of the most popular magazines by volume in China. It is widely available at newsstands everywhere in the country – everywhere but Beijing, that is.
Sina microblogger kigg posted an update last night describing a sting operation against one newsstand selling the magazine:
Buying a magazine at a newsstand, I noticed that the woman tending the stand was crying. I asked why, and learned that a few nights ago a middle-school student had come looking to buy Fiction Monthly. The woman thought it wasn’t a problem and sold it to him. Today, the student returned to the stand leading a Cultural Market Enforcement Team, which fined her 5,000. The student was used by the team for its fishing expedition, because Fiction Monthly is not allowed to be sold at newsstands. To make 2 yuan the woman had lost 5,000. Students as bait: who knows how long this situation will continue?
Commenters mentioned that they’d encountered resistance from wary news kiosk managers when trying to purchase magazines like Phoenix Weekly that are distributed through specialized channels. Late last year, the Beijing Youth Daily discovered that the city’s newsstands had a list of several dozen titles they were prohibited from selling:
This reporter visited ten newsstands in places such as Xidan, Gongzhufen, Yaojiayuan, and Renmin University. Proprietors of newsstands bearing the sign “SHOUYOU BAOKAN” (首邮报刊, Capital Post Newsstand) all said that they did not sell Fiction Monthly, because “We’re not allowed to,” or “The post office doesn’t supply it.”
At a Capital Post Newsstand near Xidan, a proprietor said, “The post office doesn’t let us sell it. If they find a copy, it’s a 500-yuan fine!” She said that the rule had been in effect for months. “If you’re not a known customer, you can’t buy it anywhere. The post office frequently dispatches people in the guise of customers to make purchases, and if they find out that a newsstand is selling it, they’ll fine them on the spot.”
At a Capital Post Newsstand near the Third Ring Road, a proprietor pulled out a photocopied list of 43 magazine and newspaper titles: “All of the newspapers and magazines on this list – the post office won’t let us sell them. I can get a secret supply from other channels, but if they find out, they’ll fine me. The fine can be from 500 to 1,000 yuan.” The list included Fiction Monthly and Bosom Friend: Girl (知音女孩).
However, at a newsstand on the Renmin University campus, Fiction Monthly had been placed in an eye-catching position. The proprietor said, “This isn’t a post office newsstand. Our periodicals are supplied by another distributor. We don’t go through the post office’s system.”
The Beijing Periodicals Retail Company (北京市报刊零售公司) controls all legitimate newsstands in the city. Other companies handle distribution in shopping centers, train stations, subway stations, and the airport. Ma Zhipeng, head of Fiction Monthly’s circulation department, told Beijing Youth Daily that the ban was imposed after a contract dispute with the distributor:
In 2006, the magazine had to renew its circulation and sales contracts with Beijing Periodicals Retail Company. The distributor demanded the exclusive distribution rights for Beijing and added a supplemental clause: If it discovered Fiction Monthly being supplied for sale in the Beijing market through any other channels, the company would levy a fine on the magazine.
Ma said, “This was a condition that we could not accept, and our negotiations had no results.” Beginning in 2007, Fiction Monthly was barred from sale at some of the city’s Capital Post newsstands.
Director Zhao of the Beijing Periodicals Retail Company’s marketing department said that the company was responsible for the operation and management of all Capital Post newsstands in Beijing. All items sold in newsstands were supplied by the company, so naturally they could not sell items that the company did not supply. “As for the fine publications that are temporarily not being supplied, we have continually been engaged in active negotiations with the publishers, including Fiction Monthly.”
Evidently, negotiations have made little progress over the past year.
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