pumping out propaganda - and, it would seem, the Fulham Chronicle's possible collaboration in allowing them to do it.
Regular readers will remember that, after a long battle, the Council was forced by the Government to stop spending our tax pounds on producing H&F News, which was dressed up as a newspaper but was actually, according to Secretary of State for Local Government Eric Pickles, "propaganda on the rates".
During the battle against the propaganda, which was also monstered by Tory MPs in Parliament, the Fulham Chronicle ran a high profile but ultimately failed campaign against H&F News. They even turned up outside David Cameron's house in West London one day with their billboards. But the campaign died out long ago and it was the main man Mr Pickles who forced the Council's hand. I supported the Chronicle's campaign at the time and called on you to do so as well.
During the battle with the Chronicle, however, the Council pointed out that running their propaganda sheet meant they didn't need to hand over loads of tax payers cash to the Chronicle for expensive advertising space. Rubbish, said the Chronicle, we're really very good value you know.
Here's what the Council have admitted courtesy of a Freedom of Information request from Andy Slaughter MP:
"..the Council is currently market testing for an advertising contract with a newspaper provider. As part of the contractual requirements, the Council is requesting free, clearly sign-posted, editorial space to help us engage and involve residents in community issues". Sources have told me that Trinity Mirror, owners of the paper, are part of that process.
So in other words an independent newspaper, which rightly took a principled stand against publicly funded propaganda may be carrying the very propaganda they said the Council shouldn't be producing. All of which means the Council carries on spending our money on propagandising, but this time it features in the Fulham Chronicle instead of H&F News.
A sad end to the story, really, even if it's a good thing that H&F News is set to go. The Chronicle has some good reporters on it and I suspect they are quite non-plussed about this, so don't direct your fire against them - its the owners Trinity Mirror who should be ashamed if it's true.
The newspaper has a column called "Voice of the Chronicle" for those of you who still receive it. Well here's the Voice of the Shepherd's Bush Blog: Trinity Mirror need to weigh up the money they'll receive from the Council's advertising against the knock to the newspaper's credibility if it starts becoming a vehicle for the sort of one sided propaganda that charecterises H&F News. And they need to do that very very carefully indeed.
1600 UPDATE Labour Opposition Leader Cllr Stephen Cowan has responded to this news by sounding the alarm. Here's what he has to say:
"I understand the financial pressures the local press are under but strongly believe that it is vital for civic society that the local press remains independent and free. If the Chronicle/Council deals turns out to be true then it is a concern. Indeed, if there is any indication that the Chronicle is taking a propagandist view of H&F Council then Labour will rip this contract up at the first opportunity when we win back control of the Council which we hope to do at the next local elections in three years time"