WAN alongside IFRA, 1948-2009

An article published in 1948 announces the creation of FIEJ.

In 2009, WAN and IFRA merged to create WAN-IFRA, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers. What are the roots of the newly formed global association? 

WAN-IFRA (then FIEJ) was founded in 1948. At the end of the Second World War, the newspaper industries of the belligerent nations lay, in some cases, in ruins, in other cases deprived of the means to re-establish their independence and economic viability. The founding fathers of FIEJ set out with the triple objective of seeking international commitments and guarantees to safeguard freedom of expression, ensuring the renewed availability of the means of newspaper production, and creating a new dialogue and exchange of information and ideas between representatives of the newspaper community worldwide.

IFRA (then INCA) was established in 1961 to uphold newspaper print technology at its high level and to promote further development to the greatest possible extent through the mutual exchange of experience and jointly financed research projects. INCA’s founders aspired to create an association that prevails “a frankness, honesty and earnest desire for progress and co-operation, where technical and commercial experiences are freely exchanged and where feelings and consideration of competition are forgotten.”

FIEJ, 1948

An inter-war forerunner to FIEJ, FIADEJ, had collapsed in the 1930s. After the war, the moment was ripe for a new initiative. Looking back on thirty years of service shortly before his death in 1978, Claude Bellanger pointed to the post-war developments that led to the association’s founding. Mr Bellanger, who had been active in French publishers’ associations when the newly-formed UNESCO called upon his expertise for a conference on freedom of information in 1947, recalled: “.. I found myself, for the first time, with fellow workers from other countries. I questioned them on what happened in their newspapers, problems, and professional organisations.”

One year later, the French press joined by their Dutch colleagues, formed a committee to prepare for the foundation of a new international newspaper organisation. Senator Johan van de Kieft (later Minister of Finance of The Netherlands) chaired the committee and became the first FIEJ President. Claude Bellanger was appointed Secretary-General. The founding Congress of FIEJ took place from 23 to 25 June 1948 in Paris.

At the first FIEJ Congress held in Paris, the most important issues of the day were newsprint supplies, taxes, production costs, working conditions and freedom of the press. The French publisher and author, Mr Claude Bellanger (1910-1978), was the principal ‘moving spirit’ sustaining FIEJ through its early years. Bellanger, active in the French resistance press during the war, maintained tight international contacts from his student days before the Second World War. He was the founding Secretary-General and then President from 1962 until 1978.

In 1948 First General Assembly of members. FIEJ founders meet at the Eiffel Tower, Paris. From left to right: Orla Rode (Denmark), Jules Burton (President Fédération Belge des Journaux de Province), Albert Bayet (President Fédération Française de la Presse Française, Vice President of the League for Human Rights), W.T. Wilson Curtis (President Newspaper Society, Great Britain), Johan van de Kieft (Publisher of Het Vrije Volk, president of the Dutch Publishers association), Claude Bellanger (Managing Director Le Parisien Libéré, Vice-President Fédération Nationale de la Presse Française, President French National Newspaper Association), Karl Sartorius (Publisher Basler Nachrichten, President of the Swiss Publishers Association).

In 1950, Claude Bellanger, Johan van de Kieft and the General Treasurer, Jules Burton set off in their car to Germany to renew contacts with German publishers. Their tour took them all over Germany and into Austria to visit newspapers and their associations. The spirit of collaboration and open-mindedness was already well enshrined in the aspirations of the founding fathers of the FIEJ.

The association gained formal consultative status to UNESCO in 1949 and to the UN in the spring of 1950. Worldwide membership of FIEJ quickly expanded. The first Congress of WAN had brought together representatives of twelve countries: Belgium, Denmark, Egypt, France, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Finland joined in 1949; Austria and West Germany in 1950; Japan in 1952; Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1953; Liberia in 1954; Israel in 1957; Senegal and Turkey in 1962; Canada and India in 1963; Australia in 1967; Indonesia in 1970; South Korea in 1971 and Spain in 1978. The member nations of FIEJ doubled in the 1980s and 1990s and has reached nearly 80 in the new millennium.

From the beginning, FIEJ championed the cause of freedom of the press, monitoring and reporting violations, protesting against repressive governments and defending the free flow of information at international meetings, particularly at UNESCO, where FIEJ helped defeat proposals for a ‘New World Information and Communications Order.’

FIEJ has also had a long-standing commitment to assisting the press in developing countries. This initiative began as the Committee for Aid to the Press in Developing Countries and is today The Fund for Press Freedom Development.

Over the years, at conferences and in its studies and publications, FIEJ provided, as it continues to do today with WAN-IFRA, a world stage for newspaper industry leaders to examine, debate and find solutions to a wide range of challenges: competition between radio-TV and the press; newsprint shortages during the Korean war; advertising problems; the problem of professional secrecy for journalists; relations with organisations of advertisers; the question of reduced tariffs for the transport of newspapers by air; international copyright issues; newspapers in education; editor-publisher relations; the impact of computer technology on the industry; and the profound challenges and opportunities as newspapers become multi-media companies. It may be reassuring for today’s newspaper circulation directors that as early as 1952 FIEJ published a paper entitled “Are we reading fewer newspapers?”

From its inception, FIEJ has promoted the interests of the newspaper industry at the highest levels of government, representing the industry at a wide range of inter-governmental organisations and meeting political leaders worldwide.

INCA, 1961

With the growth of satellite technology and more sophisticated transmission techniques, FIEJ played an important role in the founding of the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) in 1965, three years after it created its technical conferences.


On 28 September 1956 the European Rotogravure Association, in short ERA, was established by 10 European gravure printers. Its aim was to uphold gravure technology at its high level and to promote further development to the greatest possible extent through the mutual exchange of experience and jointly financed research projects on the pattern of the American Gravure Technical Association (GTA) and the Gravure Research Institute (GRI).


As of 1958, the Chairman of ERA was Dr Walter Matuschke, the Technical Director of the Axel Springer Verlag publishing house in Hamburg.


The very forward-looking concept of an international exchange of experience and joint research had already proved so successful and promising in the first five years of ERA’s existence, that Dr Matuschke began to look for ways and means of setting up a similar organisation for newspaper printing. He invited James R. Spencer of The Liverpool Daily Post in Liverpool, England, Maurice Brébart of La Dernière Heure in Brussels, Belgium, and Eske Christensen of Berlingske Tidende in Copenhagen, Denmark, to meet him in Hamburg for a discussion on 24 January 1961. In the course of this meeting, he explained how fruitful the collaboration of the publishing bouses in ERA had proved to be and that he intended to set up a similar international organisation for newspaper printing in colour, for which he had already found a name, the International Newspaper Colour Association, abbreviated to INCA.

“An association where prevails a frankness, honesty and earnest desire for progress and co-operation, where technical and commercial experiences are freely exchanged and where feelings and consideration of competition are forgotten.”

With these words from Walter Matuschke, the International News­paper Colour Association was founded on the 24th January, 1961 , between Dr Walter Matuschke (Axel Springer & Sohn, Hamburg), James R. Spencer (Liverpool Daily Post & Echo, Liverpool), Maurice Brébart (La Dernière Heure , Brussels ). The circle was to be kept small, as this was the only way that an intensive exchange of experience could take place. Matuschke was offered the presidency by the two members, which he accepted. Dr Horst Ohmsen from the Axel Springer Verlag publishing house agreed to act as secretary next to his tasks at Axel Springer Verlag.


Four research objectives were defined at this very first meeting:

  • Faster plate making for four-colour printing
  • Print quality improvement by better materials
  • Standardization of colour printing for the advertising market
  • Optimization of the insetting process with pre-printed reels.


At that time, everything was still geared towards letterpress printing as the standard newspaper printing process. In 1962, it was unanimously decided to have INCA’s head office registered in Switzerland, to open a bank account there and appoint a full-time secretary for INCA. The membership base was to be extended by admitting associate members from the supplying industry.


One year later, the discussion with the state of Hessen and the municipal authorities on financing a building for the institute in Darmstadt was afoot. The international umbrella organisation of the Association of News­ paper Publisher Federations, FIEJ, in Paris indicated that it was willing to establish its documentation centre there, too. It would also be possible to offer other organisations use of the institute, perhaps even certain companies from the supplying industry, though it was important that the institute would remain an INCA institute.


The 10th meeting on May 1965 in Vienna, Austria, was a milestone in INCA’s history, not only because of the round number, as the president emphasised in his opening speech, but also because it set the course for the future of the association and the entire newspaper industry. The meeting was attended by 13 guests who had been invited to join the 48 representatives from 25 member companies in 10 countries. The major item on the agenda was the establishment of the INCA research centre in Darmstadt. In a long address, the president exhorted those present on the changes in newspaper technology, which were happening in rapid succession and which newspaper publishers would have to tackle if they were not to be overwhelmed by the innovations. He spoke of a new era of telecommunications and cybernetics lying ahead of us and that the golden age in which newspapers enjoyed a monopoly position was coming to an end. Consequently, newspapers were faced with the challenge of protecting their vested interests by investing in the most state-of-the­ art technology. A concentration of forces was called for in order to deal with the changes with the necessary energy. An INCA research centre was needed, and the President started formal consultations with the state of Hessen and the city of Darmstadt.


The city of Darmstadt (Germany) had promised to make a site available and to help with the financing of the building. However, by a fortunate coincidence, the research institute for Kraft paper in Washingtonplatz had just come up for sale because research in this field had taken a back seat because of the advance of plastic packaging. Kraft had left a well-equipped paper laboratory, and machinery and equipment would be provided free of charge by the supplying industry. It was hoped that close collaboration would be established with the two professorships held for paper production, printing presses and printing technologies at the Technical University in Darmstadt and with FIEJ in Paris.


By 16 May 1966, so much progress had been made that by the time of the eleventh meeting of INCA the research centre in Darmstadt was declared officially open. 75 representatives from 37 member companies and 64 invited guests from 44 companies and organisations had travelled to Washingtonplatz, Darmstadt.


FIEJ and INCA joined forces in 1967


In 1967, INCA signed an agreement to develop closer collaboration with FIEJ in Paris. The chairman of FIEJ, Claude Bellanger of Le Parisien Libéré came to Darmstadt, especially for this meeting. He suggested combining both institutions’ technical activities in Darmstadt and transferring FIEJ’s documentation centre there.


The name of the INCA laboratories should be changed to INCA-FIEJ Research Institute (IFRI) and three delegates of FIEJ should join INCA’s Executive Board. However, both institutions, INCA and FIEJ, would remain legally and financially independent organisations.


That same year, Dr Friedrich W. Burkhardt was appointed as Managing Director. He was the man who developed Ifra into a truly worldwide organisation. In 1971, IFRI became IFRA (the INCA-FIEJ Research Association).


The promotion of excellence in newspaper management and marketing has long been a key mission of FIEJ. In 1973 the organisation initiated a series of marketing conferences. Today WAN-IFRA organises conferences workshops and study tours for news media executives, all over the world. Dozens of Heads of State and Prime Ministers have attended already attended FIEJ conferences and the annual Congress has become the premier event in the calendars of newspaper publishers and editors.


The early 1990s saw a significant expansion of the membership and activities of the association, with the creation of a Training & Events division and the World Editors Forum. In the mid-1990s, the acceleration of changes in every area of newspaper operations, particularly the rapid development of digital media, led WAN to create a major research project called READY for the Year 2000. READY promoted the development and well-being of newspaper companies through research and global exchange of ideas, data and information.


The turn of the century saw READY evolve into the “Shaping the Future of the Newspaper” project, which identifies, analyses and publicises all important breakthroughs and opportunities that can benefit newspapers all over the world. Through SFN, WAN has become the leading provider of industry research and analysis, and the only source of serious data on trends in the global press industry, with its annual World Press Trends and World Digital Media Trends reports.


FIEJ, transformed into WAN (the World Association of Newspapers) has entered new realms and launched myriad new initiatives to aid newspapers and news publishers as they adapt their organisations to the digital era.

The organisation was simultaneously promoting the impact, scope and influence of the global news publishing industry in media markets. WAN has continued to extend its press freedom and development activities, which remain at the heart of its work.


WAN’s initiatives to help create and support new newspaper associations, develop media infrastructure, and to lobby for press freedom, have attained new levels of engagement. During this decade, WAN also became strongly identified with the annual World Press Freedom Day, launched the African Press Network for the 21st Century and the Arab Press Network to provide media management advice for newspapers in those regions.


It has also become a major media information source through the World Editors Forum’s Editors Weblog, and the SFN project’s SFN blog. WAN’s annual Congress and Forum have enjoyed massive growth, with more than 1,600 senior newspaper executives attending each year from at least 110 countries.


During the first decades, the emphasis of INCA, then IFRA, was on the move from letterpress and hot-metal composition. Then came the mailroom systems used to distribute millions of inserts in a geographically targeted operation, and increase the advertising efficiency of newspapers. In early 2000, the new focus was on digital convergence. Newsplex was launched by Kerry J. Northrup and Günther Böttcher, then CEO of IFRA. This was the infancy of the convergence between content and technology, print and digital that ultimately led to the complete merger of WAN and IFRA in 2009, a little more than 40 years after the first link-up.