London weekly in council ad deal denies propaganda slur

The Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle has hit back at claims that it has become a propaganda paper since signing a six-year advertising deal with its local council.

The deal – worth around £75,000 a year – was signed with Hammersmith and Fulham Council in April and sees the Chronicle publish statutory notices and council advertising and advertorials. It follows news of a similar deal between Southwark News Ltd and Lambeth council said to be worth up to £1m over five years.

Local blogger Chris Underwood claimed there has been ‘distinct lack of criticism’against the council and that the newspaper has ‘given up any pretence of being independent”.

Responding to the criticisms, editor Adrian Seal said: ‘We take very seriously our role as an independent community newspaper. Our reporting team are clear they report without fear or favour in the interests of the community we serve.

‘We always hold public bodies, including the council, to account and report their activities good or bad to the benefit of our readers. Anyone can see that for themselves if they read the Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle on a regular basis.’

The council also denied Underwood’s claims.

A spokesman said: “The council is required by law to publish public notices on planning, licensing, highways and a range of other issues.

‘We have no choice but to place these notices in the Fulham Chronicle as it is the only local paper left in our borough. We have also arranged a weekly double-page spread in The Chronicle.

‘This is not for ‘propaganda’, which the law has always prevented councils from producing, but public information about consultations, road closures, services changes and events that we have a duty to share with residents.

‘The council has no say on what news stories the paper prints and any reasonable person only needs to read a few recent editions to see that they are not always positive about the council.”

The paper has numerous critical articles about the council on its website including one feature published last Friday headlined “Is Hammersmith and Fulham Council Undemocratic?”

Another story run earlier this week accused council leader Stephen Greenhalgh of ‘running scared’after struggling to push through plans to demolish local homes.

In March 2010 the Chronicle launched a campaign against the Hammersmith & Fulham Council newsppaper – the H&F News – called ‘Proper Papers Not Propoganda”.

In November last year the council announced it would no longer publish the newspaper, ahead of the introduction of a new local authority publicity code which banned councils publishing newspapers more than four times a year.

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