Monday 3 August 2009

Evening Standard's Andrew Gilligan Exposes Hammersmth & Fulham's Conservative Council's Tax-Payer Funded Propaganda Scam

The Evening Standard’s Andrew Gilligan has published a piece about council propaganda sheets disguised as newspapers. You can read his full article by clicking here. I have also cut the pieces relevant to what he says about Hammersmith and Fulham’s tax payer funded Tory spin sheet below. Regular readers will recall that H&F Council have increased spending on propaganda and advertising by 11.3% - which is one of the largest increases in the UK.

Andrew Gilligan writes… "Imagine for a moment that you are Gordon Brown. Angry at the 'negative' news agenda of the press, you spend large sums of public money to destroy it.

You start several newspapers of your own, hiring experienced journalists and well-known columnists with big public followings. You fill your newspapers with nearly everything people buy papers for - news, features, property pages, what's-on guides, even crumpet - and you do it well. Only a few things are missing from your newspapers - anything whatever that reflects badly on you, and any mention at all of your political opponents.

You offer taxpayer-subsidised advertising rates that your commercial rivals cannot match. You deliver your newspapers free of charge to everyone - unlike your competitor papers, for which everyone still has to pay. One after another, they shrivel and die. Eventually, as in the former East Germany, the only news available is that provided by your government-controlled newspapers...

... In Tory-controlled Hammersmith and Fulham, lies H&F News, circulation 75,000, and perhaps the craftiest operation of all.

H&F News is a brilliant facsimile of a good, meaty local newspaper, complete with a 12-page property pullout, a sudoku and crossword, a What's On supplement, lots of ads from real local businesses and even a five-page gardening section. The council PR stories ("Residents dish out the love ... Poll reveals that three years of tax cuts give joy") are interspersed with page after page of other news, much of it seemingly straight, and you struggle to remember this is an official publication. But of course it is.

In H&F News, it is the Labour Party that does not exist and the Tory councillors who get all the quotes. However, the true genius is in some of the apparently straight reporting. In H&F News, unlike all the other official papers, occasional controversy is allowed - but only in the context of the council listening and taking heed.

In H&F News, with few exceptions, the only crimes are committed by people who have been caught and jailed by the borough's ever-vigilant police (regular advertisers in H&F News).

In H&F News, crime is nearly always falling, even when it isn't.

The 5 May issue proclaimed that "violent crimes have fallen dramatically across the year" to April and quoted the relevant H&F cabinet member, Cllr Greg Smith, speaking of "impressive falls across the board". In fact, however you slice it, some, perhaps even most, violent crimes did not fall in Hammersmith and Fulham in the year to April 2009. Rapes, for instance, went up.

Above all, it is Hammersmith that may soon become the first borough in Britain covered only by official media. The local paid-for paper, the Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle, sells 1,500 and falling. "They were virtually out of business long before we started H&F News," says a council spokesman. "They are not even based in the borough. There has been in our borough an information vacuum which we are trying to fill."


Anonymous said...

I would be more impressed by the Tory-run h&F News if it did not put the Edward Woods Estate in West Kensington! What can one think of a Tory council that does not even know where one of its main estates is located!

Anonymous said...

You wouldn't know that there is a Labour party or that there are any Labour councillors from reading the H&F Rag.

Anonymous said...

I read it once. now it goes straight in the bin with all the other trash

Unknown said...

I agree that local stories should be published impartially, and I object to funding Tory propaganda. I say this despite the fact that I voted for them and I am pleased that they are reducing my council tax. There is an alternative: if you want to find real, controversial, local news, go to It is independent.