Nationals put block on BA World Cup freebie flights

On their way: but the press were pulled from free trips to follow England

In a sleazebusting move Associated Newspapers and News International pulled journalists from freebie trips to the World Cup laid on by British Airways.

Both companies felt it was inappropriate for their staff to accept the free hospitality. The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph carried stories of the proposed trips several weeks ago, questioning the ethics of journalists going.

Other invited journalists had to cancel for different reasons.

BA, which flew the England team to the World Cup, arranged three free trips for journalists from national newspapers and the Press Association.  The five-day trips provided the chance to attend England matches and to do some sightseeing, but only eight people took up the offer.

The Sun’s City editor Ian King and the Daily Mail’s news editor Tony Gallagher were two of the journalists pulled from BA’s list at the 11th hour.

A spokesman for the Daily Mail said: "BA did offer various people within our organisation a free trip to the World Cup. It was felt that we could not do much in return in writing about BA or aviation or their part in the World Cup so, on the basis that there was no professional point in it all, we politely declined."

He said that editor Paul Dacre’s view was that the Mail did not take freebies unless the paper could offer a real benefit in return.

David Yelland, editor of The Sun, said: "A number of people were asked at The Sun and we declined their generous offer."

Andy Malone, news editor at The Observer, told Press Gazette: "I was given the option of flying out to either the Sweden, Argentina or Nigeria matches with England. For personal and professional reasons, I wasn’t able to take up BA’s kind offer. Being Scottish, this was an easy decision.

"I doubt very much that anyone who went would be compromised on ethical grounds. I think journalists are  big enough chancers to take freebies and enjoy them.

"But we all know that this is unlikely to stop them turning on BA should they get a great airline scoop."

Steve Double, head of British Airways newsdesk, was of the same mind.  He said: "The cost was minimal.  They were all high-calibre journalists and the suggestion they would suddenly turn into our patsies as a result of going on one of our aircraft was a bit fanciful.

"We are not that na•ve and the journalists are not that na•ve so we were a bit surprised. If you speak to any of the journalists who went, you will find they weren’t having BA stuffed down their throats."

BA had invited senior executives up to editor level from every major newspaper group.

 

Jean Morgan

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