London Evening Standard is facing accusations it sold “favorable news
coverage” to six major companies, including Uber and Google, in a
Democracy, a political U.K.-based website, accused the paper of offering
positive news coverage to the likes of Uber and Google in exchange for
corporate partnerships worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, as part of
an upcoming campaign called London 2020.
to the report published
Wednesday, the Evening Standard told corporate partners they would not
just get the usual, clearly labeled “advertorial” content, but also news
and comment pieces “that will appear to readers as routine,
independently written editorial.”
Evening Standard, which is run by former U.K. Chancellor George Osborne
and has a circulation of close to 900,000, issued a statement Wednesday
night denying the allegations.
London 2020 project, set to launch June 5, involves six “themed projects”
that will run over the next two years and focus on issues such as clean
air, schools and workplace tech, according to Open Democracy.
project’s six corporate partners have each paid half a million pounds to
be involved, it claimed. The plan will include “favorable” news coverage
of the firms involved that will not be flagged as commercially-branded
content, Open Democracy claimed. Several “unbranded news stories” written
by staff reporters are planned to run next month, according to the
Evening Standard’s parent company ESI Media’s commercial director, John
O’Donnell, gave a statement to the
Drum in response, calling the Open Democracy
report a “grossly inaccurate and a wildly misunderstood interpretation of
the London 2020 project.”
2020 is “an editorial campaign designed to instigate positive change and
support London in becoming a more environmentally and socially sustainable
city fit for the future,” O’Donnell said.
will, as with all commercial content, be clearly identifiable as such,” he
insisted. “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.”
Evening Standard came
under fire last year for failing to declare
Osborne’s £650,000-a-year part time job with BlackRock, the fund manager
that holds a £500 million stake in Uber.
is yet to comment.