EXPO reports that Reed Elsevier is in the process of divesting itself from any of its properties related to defense.
Sir Crispin Davis, Chief Executive Officer of Reed Elsevier, said:
"Our defence shows are quality businesses which have performed well in recent years. Nonetheless, it has become increasingly clear that growing numbers of important customers and authors have very real concerns about our involvement in the defence exhibitions business.
Granted, Reed reports those businesses represent only 0.5% of total revenue (albeit revenues pushed $16 billion last year, so that fraction is not insignificant - $80 million give or take), so it appears worth it for them to forego that revenue in order to keep the revenue it makes from the hundreds/thousands of academics who contribute content for Reed's educational publishing divisions.
The discussion leading up to this decision has been going on for at least two years, and is best summarized in this excerpt from ideolect.org.uk:
I believe that the DSEi arms fairs are immoral, geopolitically reckless, sometimes illegal (e.g.) and improperly regulated (e.g.). Beyond this, I resent that a publisher which profits from the hard (and publicly funded) work of academics uses those profits to support the sale to undemocratic & repressive governments of such things as depleted uranium shells, cluster bombs, missile technology and small arms. The arms fairs Spearhead organises (yes, DSEi isn't the only one) are a measly amount of Elsevier's business, but it is a part that makes academics complicit in the deaths of civilians, in torture and in political repression around the world.
Still, this type of political action and Reed's reaction begs the question, where is the line?
- Should there not be any defense-related shows? Who should run them? (We'd hope "the good guys").
- Should there be pressure to end Reed's participation (or any other media company) in all businesses in all countries that routinely violate human rights? Who's on that case?
- If defense is being called into question, why not is Reed's stand on genetically-modified foods? On child labor? On terrorism? On smoking? On cell phone use when driving?
We're not in favor of child soldiers anywhere. But that's almost beside the point. It's one thing when a company adopts a policy because of market dynamics. A good example of that is right here in Pittsburgh, where it was just reported today that 12 of 15 new restaurants launched in May were non-smoking, despite the fact that the smoking ban wasn't passed. Free market at work.
But that's a case of institutionalizing a behavioral change. Ending smoking. This action doesn't remove arms shows, it simply shifts ownership. As Matt noted in the comments on ideolect, somebody else will simply take over the shows - maybe somebody in Saudi Arabia. Or Russia. Or somewhere equally as distasteful.
It's unclear what threats the "important customers" levied against Reed to influence this decision. Apparently it was enough. But we have trouble with Sir Davis's usage of "authors" in the press release as though writers held equal standing with customers. "Authors" shouldn't be equated thusly.
However, we're not talking "authors" in this case as much as we are discussing content contributors to Reed's educational businesses - where it appears throughout history, there's been a sort of "one hand washes the other" arrangement.
Anyway, the backstory is interesting and worth investigating some Sunday night when you would normally have been watching The Sopranos
The nagging question for TSMR regarding "authors"... does this mean if me and a bunch of other bloggers decide Reed should divest itself of MIDEM because we demonize the RIAA, deplore the concept of DRM, decry the existence and unfairness of ASCAP and BMI and everything else that's wrongheaded with the music industry, would Reed do so?
That would be an interesting social experiment.