New moves to outlaw Tower Hamlets' on-the-tax East End Life propaganda
PUBLISHED: 07:00 23 October 2012
New legislation is planned at Westminster to outlaw once and for all the town hall 'propaganda' newspapers which are paid for out of council taxes—like East End Life.
The move comes in a response this week to a wave of formal complaints to Whitehall from the newspaper industry.
They include criticism of the Metropolitan Police in Tower Hamlets advertising in East End Life which is published against the government’s own Code of Practice.
The police, in partnership with Tower Hamlets council, was criticised last month in a letter to Communities & Local Government State Secretary Eric Pickles for restrictive practice by no longer placing any advertising in the Docklands & East London Advertiser, along with the Town Hall which refuses to place public announcements in the local press.
Mr Pickles’ Parliamentary Under Secretary Peter Lewis has written this week to the council’s Tory Opposition group leader Peter Golds, telling him: “The department will introduce legislation requiring compliance with some or all of the Code’s recommendations, to protect local commercial newspapers from unfair competition from municipal publications.”
It could throw the spanner in the works of the subsidised East End Life which is pushed through 90,000 letterboxes every week at an estimated £1.2 million cost a year—excluding rent and utilities that commercial companies face.
“I’m only sorry it’s taken so long,” said Tory group leader Peter Golds.
“The government assumed voluntary guidance was the way to do it.
“But Tower Hamlets has used sleight of hand by pretending ‘East End Life’ isn’t a newspaper—it certainly looks like a newspaper, its real purpose being to push out the mayor’s propaganda week in, week out.”
Parliamentary guidelines passed last year were aimed at preventing local authority “propaganda” being published more than four times a year.
The independent local media exists by way of advertisements—but the council simply does not place public notices in the local press, the Secretary of Sate learned.
Media critics such as the Guardian’s Roy Greenslade worry about “gradual elimination” of newspapers able to hold the local authorities to account, whereas East End Life is part of the council’s PR department budget which is “not publishing genuine journalism.”