The Evening Standard has issued a statement denying a report accusing it of “selling its editorial independence”. An article published on the Open Democracy website last night made the explosive claims that George Osborne’s paper
“has agreed a £3 million deal with six leading commercial companies, including Google and Uber, promising them ‘money-can’t-buy’ positive news and ‘favourable’ comment coverage… Unbranded news stories, expected to be written by staff reporters – but paid for by the new commercial “partners” as part of the 2020 deal – have already been planned for inclusion in the paper’s news pages within a week of the project’s launch.”
If true, the deal would, as the article alleges: “sweep away the conventional ethical divide between news and advertising inside the Standard”.
Guido has previously reported on how Osborne defended his employer BlackRock’s half-a-billion pound investment, Uber, on the front page of the Standard, one of many glaring conflicts of interest since he took over as editor. The Deliveroo love-in is certainly interesting, too. The Open Democracy article is based on the above slide which, embarrassingly for the Standard, does appear to promise “money-can’t-buy” coverage: “we expect every campaign to generate numerous news stories”. On the other hand, Open Democracy is notorious for publishing nonsense by cranks. The author of this piece, James Cusick, also writes for Peter Jukes’ conspiracy theory website Byline.
ESI Media say in a statement that the article is “grossly misleading”:
“Under no circumstances have these clients been guaranteed news coverage for their own ends, nor would they ever be. Properly signposted commercial content within an editorial product is an accepted part of the news industry and is nothing new for publishers.”
Standard hacks will be asking some searching questions in the newsroom this morning…