Denying that its plans for a magazine rating system amount to censorship of public reading, Britain's largest retailer of newspapers and periodicals W H Smith this week revealed outline plans for categorising by content all magazines on its shelves.

In a consultation paper sent to publishers, WHS proposes that titles be given an age rating of 15 or 18 dependent on their sexual or drug-related quotient. Similar criteria may also be applied to the women’s soft-porn sector.

According to those who have seen the retailer’s document, it deems magazines that “encourage drug-taking or any illegal activity” as inappropriate for a family environment. This, some publishers fear, could result in the relegation to upper shelves of certain titles in the men’s, teen, clubbing and gay sectors.

The thought that WHS’ initiative might spread to other retailers is said to be causing unease in publishing’s grubbier environs – especially those peddling pre-pubescent sex.

News source: CampaignLive (UK)