The Press Complaints Commission needs to take note of today’s ASA rebuke for the Daily Express and change the Editors’ Code to outlaw the hijacking of editorial by commercial interests.
The ASA found that the Express has been routinely publishing features solely to promote the products of advertisers.
It has been caught out in the most blatant cases. But who knows how many other times ad-sales staff have strong-armed journalists into obtaining positive name-checks for advertisers in features?
Every day journalists around the world are beaten up, murdered and imprisoned because of their bravery and determination to report the news “without fear or favour”.
The Press Complaints Commission is currently embarking on a wholesale review of its activities. It needs to look at including a new clause in the Editors’ Code stating that advertorial and promotional features should be clearly labelled as such and upholding the commercial independence of editorial content.
The Editors’ Code as it stands contains not a word about paid-for editorial.
Alan Rusbridger, Paul Dacre, Adrian Faber and the other members of the Code Committee need to look at this urgently. Because as the recession bites journalists are going to come under more pressure from desperate managements to sell press freedoms which have been fought and won over centuries for the price of a half-page ad.