Our Cats Shop

Freedom of the press and a case of attitude

On this page, you will see a letter dated 26th July 2007 from Mr Gordon Butler, recently appointed Chairman of the GCCF concerning the publication of Our Cats Magazine [sic]. In the letter, Mr Butler advises Our Dogs Publishing that, ‘after careful consideration, the Executive Committee on behalf of the Council have decided to make alternative arrangements and to terminate the contract’ with the company.

Mr Butler then refers to the period of notice required under the terms of the original contract between the GCCF and the former owners of Our Dogs Publishing and encloses copies of correspondence from July 1983, between GCCF President Lesley Pring and Our Dogs’ then owner and Managing Director Richard Marples.

Back in July 1983, the then Executive Committee of Governing Council of the Cat Fancy were clearly delighted that Our Dogs Publishing were taking over publication of Cats Magazine (as OUR CATS was then known), but of course, times and officers of committees change, and 24 years later, the GCCF Executive want to remove this paper’s status as ‘official organ of the GCCF’ and award this to Fancy That magazine/website, to be published by Seaview Designs.

Mr Butler’s letter refers to the Executive having, for some time, being ‘concerned about a number of aspects of the service’ they have received from our company regarding the publication of OUR CATS magazine. This in my view is a rather vague statement, as are similar comments made in an earlier letter to this company by Mr Butler’s predecessor Mrs Betty Shingleton… which I have now read.

What it seems to come down to – and here we are happy for the GCCF to correct us if we are wrong – is that OUR CATS has acted like a proper newspaper. We have reported news from the Cat Fancy. We have published some stories that may be uncomfortable to the Executive. Earlier this year, we published a story containing comments that were critical of the Executive’s decision to remove licensing rights from the Bingley and Swansea Exemption shows. In another issue we published a Photo-Report of a TICA-affiliated club’s show. Note that this was a photo-report, not judges’ critiques, but a pictorial news feature on a cat show.

Hardly strong stuff, but objectively reported accurate news and views to give a wider perspective. We’ve also very occasionally published letters from OUR CATS readers about the GCCF.

We have received comments from the Executive that they have not received the right of reply to these letters. Not so – the right of reply is always offered, but because of publication deadlines, it is not always possible to print the Executive’s response in the same issue. It has, however, always been printed in the next available issue, once the Executive has submitted the reply.
It seems that objective reporting, including the occasional feature on a non-GCCF affiliated show, and publishing reader’s letters that are critical of THEIR registering body are beyond the pale. Perhaps we should know our place; after all, the Executive are clearly sensitive to any form of criticism because in my opinion, they seem to run their branch of the UK Cat fancy with an iron fist.

However, contrast this attitude – and Mr Butler’s ‘concerned’ remarks with the last paragraph of the letter sent back in July 1983 to Richard Marples by GCCF President Lesley Pring:
‘The Executive wished you to know that they would certainly think it editorially irresponsible of you not to publish opposing views from time to time, in fact the general feeling was that the magazine could be rather more controversial to the advantage of both the fancy and the magazine itself.’

As I observed above, times and committees change and the views of the Executive voiced by Mrs Pring in 1983 clearly do not resonate within the Executive in 2007. Freedom of the press is something we pride ourselves on in this country.

Governments may wish to silence their critics in the press, but cannot do so by repressive laws such as those that exist in dictatorships elsewhere in the world. Unfortunately for the British Cat Fancy, the GCCF Executive Committee patently does not share the same view of press freedom, or in the freedom of expression, transparency or openness in how decisions that affect the whole Fancy are made.

The GCCF was founded in 1910 during the Edwardian era. Its attitude towards the media and its own members has always had an Edwardian feel to it; it seems that the feeling is that we should know our place and remain deferential and un-critical of our ‘betters’.
Quite simply, it’s all a case of attitude.

But consider this – the loss of OUR CATS means a loss of freedom of expression within the Cat fancy.

And history teaches us that freedoms, hard fought for, once lost, are seldom regained.

By NICK MAYS, News & Features Editor

GCCF appoints new Supreme Show PR Officer
Following a number of enquiries from readers, OUR CATS can confirm that the GCCF has taken the step of appointing a new PR officer for the Supreme Cat show which takes place on November 17th this year.

OUR CATS can also confirm that this whole area of publicity and PR was the subject of a discussion between the paper and the Supreme Show Manager Julia May as far back as last November when OUR CATS pointed out that it was difficult to find out information about the show until it was very late in the day.

OUR CATS also offered help at that time to redesign the Supreme poster by using our graphic designers in the office. This offer was declined by the GCCF as was our offer to carry GCCF literature, and Supreme schedules around the shows.

Subsequently, the GCCF has now made an appointment to the post and the job has gone to Anna Shafto, who is one of the Directors of Seaview Designs, which has also been granted the title of Official Journal of the GCCF as from February 1st 2008.