“Former Chancellor George Osborne was embroiled in a row on Thursday over claims that London’s Evening Standard promised ‘money-can’t-buy’ coverage to big businesses for £3million.
The newspaper faced accusations it had effectively sold positive news coverage to brands including Google and the controversial taxi app Uber, in return for sponsorship of a planned campaign.
The two were among six firms to each pay £500,000 to be part of the paper’s ‘London 2020’ project which will highlight issues including air pollution and housing.
The Evening Standard said it had agreed partnerships to support its campaign but denied the deals threatened its editorial integrity and independence. It said any commercial content would be ‘clearly identifiable’.
Mr Osborne became the newspaper’s editor last year and was said to have directed the London 2020 project, pitched to potential commercial sponsors as offering ‘money-can’t-buy’ coverage.
A sales presentation to businesses said: ‘We expect every campaign to generate numerous news stories, comment pieces and high-profile backers.’
Details of the deal were revealed on the news website open-Democracy, which claimed the Standard offered ‘favourable’ editorial comment and news coverage as part of its sales presentation. …
Blurring the line between journalism and advertising, or allowing commercial pressures to influence editorial content is generally seen as a breach of Britain’s robust tradition of Press freedom and independence.
Mr Osborne’s appointment as editor attracted criticism after it emerged that he had a £650,000-a-year part-time advisory job with City firm BlackRock, which holds a £500million stake in Uber.
The Cameron-Osborne government also came under fire for its close links to Uber. Black cab drivers brought Westminster to a standstill in a protest over claims that former prime minister David Cameron and Mr Osborne told aides to lobby against a planned crackdown on the online firm in 2015.
Rachel Whetstone – a friend of Mr Cameron who is married to his former strategist Steve Hilton – quit her job as Uber’s policy chief as it emerged the information watchdog had begun an investigation into the affair. Critics had raised concerns about the extent of her influence over the Cameron government, both in her role at Uber and in her previous job at Google. …
The Evening Standard was owned by the Daily Mail’s parent company but was sold to Russian-born businessman Alexander Lebedev and his son Evgeny in 2009. …”