The Evening Standard has defended its editorial integrity as “beyond question” after claims emerged that it had sold “favourable” news coverage to advertisers including Google and Uber.
In an article on media platform Open Democracy, the newspaper was believed to have agreed a £3m deal with six companies promising them “’money-can’t-buy’ positive news and ‘favourable’ comment coverage”.
The feature suggests editor George Osborne was breaching the traditional church/state divide between editorial and commercial with the deal, leaving readers unable to differentiate between ‘news’ that is paid-for and other commercially-branded content. Indeed, the deal is likely to come under scrutiny from a slew of regulators spanning both the advertising and newspaper industries.
The deal comes under a project called ‘London 2020’ and is being directed by the Editor, and former British Chancellor, Osborne. Democracy Now reports that leading global companies were given detailed sales presentations by Evening Standard executives at the newspaper’s west London offices in an effort to sign them up to the lucrative deal.
For their £3 million the partners have allegedly been promised a special monthly print section themed to individual projects; a “bespoke” social media strategy including readers polls; and public debates, exhibitions and large-scale events organised by the Standard.
According to Press Gazette, those companies that have paid half a million pounds include Uber, which is facing an imminent court appeal against the decision to cancel its license to operate in London. Waters are muddied further by revelations that Osborne has a £650,000-a-year part-time job with the fund managers BlackRock, who hold a £500m stake in Uber.