The Ringing World Ltd

On Saturday 7th November, the board of Ringing World Ltd signed the company's suicide note in the form of a budget for 2021.

The board's plan for 2021 is to increase print subscriptions by £15 and online-only by £10 – an increase of more than 17%. Yet the board seemingly expects the effect of this price hike will only be a 1.2% overall reduction in circulation, if print and online subscriptions are both included. Over the last five years, overall circulation has dropped by 1.6% a year on average. During the same period, annual increases in subscription rates have averaged £3.60 – and have never exceeded £4.

A large increase in subscription rates of more than the last four annual increases combined may or may not be a sensible idea in these difficult times, but the board evidently believe that they can do this and still see a below-average reduction in circulation. Moreover, the increased rate will not be for the current product, as apparently issues will now all be 20 pages instead of the usual 24.

We might ask whether the board have taken leave of their senses, but the answer to this is already clear from their response to my resignation statement. This statement contains multiple falsehoods and blatant misrepresentations of the facts.

  1. The statement says that the 30% circulation target was "stated in the heat of the moment". Possibly the chairman's statement at the AGM was, but the chairman's subsequent page-long article in The Ringing World (p.950), which the board did not get to see in advance, cannot have been written "in the heat of the moment".
  2. It characterises the failure to circulate the draft CIO constitution as "a simple oversight". Yet on the morning of the AGM, the chairman told the board that the AGM notice said "the CIO constitution was available from me and the email given out – as agreed". I do not receive AGM notices, but assuming the chairman's description of it is accurate, it shows the failure was not an oversight. You wouldn't explain that the constitution is available on request if you believed it was included.
  3. It says "preparation for the budget for 2021 is well under way". The budget meeting was held on 6 Nov, there had been no discussion about the budget at prior board meetings, the first (and probably only) email pertaining to the budget was sent on 21 Oct, and from the accounts I've heard, no-one had done any preparation for yesterday's budget meeting.
  4. Apparently my allegation "that the Ringing World's finances are in a perilous states … is simply untrue". But if the company's finances are not perilous, why the unprecedented 17% hike in subscription rates?
  5. The board say "their actions were widely applauded at the AGM". A review of the AGM recording and chat log reveals there were postive comments about the editor and editorial team, but the sole positive comment about the board was when the editor thanked them for their support. Nor was there any literal applause.
  6. The long paragraph listing the board's accomplishments under the current chairman includes many things where neither the chairman nor board had no involvement because they were done entirely by the editor and other employees. Examples include appointing the digital assistant, implementing remote working procedures, and ensuring business continuity arrangements with suppliers.

If the board think that they can brush off my legitimate concerns with such a transparent pack of lies, it shows just how desperate and out of touch with reality they have become.

If the board will not retract this statement, then more board members need to follow David Smith's lead in disavowing the board's statement. Admittedly it's easier in his case as he never saw the final statement, which the others presumably did. As David says, when the board knowingly makes a false statement in an attempt to justify their position, they are potentially breaking the law, and any board member who cares one iota about his or her reputation must surely want to disassociate themselves from this perhaps criminal action. To date no others have.

I have therefore decided to cut all involvement with The Ringing World with immediate effect until there has been major change to the board. I will no longer serve as Digital Consultant, and I will no longer make any updates or bug fixes to BellBoard. I'm aware and regret that this will cause major disruption, but I see no other option when faced with a board incapable of facing reality and fulfilling their legal obligations.

Richard A Smith

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