Wednesday 6 October 2010

H&F Council Propaganda Sheet To Go But Will Its Reincarnation Have Editorial Integrity?

I suppose the writing was on the wall after a Parliamentary select committee attacked H&F Council’s political propaganda as a corrupt abuse. Last week the Secretary of State finally acted and, as the Guardian reported, H&F News will have to stop being a council-owned spin sheet.

Even as late as June of this year, H&F Conservatives were sticking by H&F News. They actually voted against a Labour motion to the Council that supported their own government’s call for their propaganda machine to be wound up - as you can see on page 7 of these minutes.

So it is ironic that H&F have been forced down this path by this Conservative-led government. I understand H&F Council has actually had a number of private discussions with the owners of a local media provider over the summer and now plans to tender H&F News - which will be run at an arms length from the Council. We will have to wait to see if we end up with something that has editorial independence and integrity.

If this new path H&F Council has so far been forced down seems at all familiar, that’s because it is. H&F Labour have campaigned against H&F news since 2006 and made a manifesto commitment to sell it off at the recent local elections. But, the devil will be in the detail of what this Administration does.

Local Tories aren't quite going that far. "Arms length" implies some sort of editorial interference, no matter how subtle. I can't imagine H&F News (under these proposals) attacking some of the corrupt actions of H&F Council, such as their false, tax payer funded "super sewer" allegations made simply to win support for the Conservatives prior to the last elections.

H&F Council is yet to make a commitment to an independent editorial board - which would be an essential feature of the proposed structure. So, while on the face of it, this looks like positive news the detail may show that this is no more than a better disguised front for the same old corrupt propaganda. Watch this space.

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