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Newspaper under fire again over BNP ads

The decision by a Newsquest Midlands newspaper to carry adverts in print and online for the British National Party has come under fire again.

Chris Morley, northern organiser for the National Union of Journalists, has written a lengthy and barbed attack against his hometown paper the Halesowen News.

His letter, which can be read in full on the News website, accuses the title of stooping low and potentially harming its standing within the community.

Newsquest Midland titles such as the News and Bromsgrove Advertiser started running the ads last month in the build-up to Thursday’s European Elections.

The decision was roundly condemned by media pundits and bloggers, whereas the company defended the move, saying it was for voters to cast judgement and not them.

Ironically, Chris’ letter sits beneath the same banner ad (see below) which caused the furore to boil up in the first place two weeks ago.

In it, he says: “I am appalled that the Halesowen News has published an advert on behalf of the British National Party.

“What is particularly worrying about the News giving the BNP an uncritical platform to promote itself is that it serves to bring down the good name of a reputable newspaper, while at the same time helping to instil fear among some parts of the community in which the paper circulates.

“These adverts are also harmful to the newspaper in other ways. The online front page ad links the News directly to the BNP’s own website…..this potentially harms the standing with which the paper’s journalists are viewed within the wider community.

“It could also have the effect of driving away other, respectable advertisers who would not want to be associated with this sort of media.

“I urge you to take the online ad off immediately and stop any further advertising…..Failure to do so will severely undermine the paper’s long-term reputation.”

An email from Peter John, publisher of the Stourbridge division, laid out Newsquest’s position to Chris in response to his letter.

It said: “I understand your concerns and this was not a decision taken lightly or without some serious soul-searching.

“We do not support the BNP, and have previously run stories condemning them and their policies.

“As a matter of fact, we do not support any political party. Our policy on the BNP has not altered for some time.

“In the build up to a public election we give balanced editorial coverage to all parties and we accept advertising from any party as long as it is legally constituted and the advert itself complies with the Code of Advertising.

“Our stance is not, as some would accuse us, based on profit. We know full well when we make decisions such as these that we risk a backlash from readers and customers.

“Our columns (and web space) are open to all those who wish to publicly air their views about both the BNP and our decision.”


Philip Mingo (01/06/2009 10:30:31)
You do not have to believe in the BNP or what they would like to implement, but the right for freedom of speech and the right to have an advert should not be restricted for anyone. If you restricted the BNP and no other party then you are in the mind set that members of the public that read the Halesowen News are unable to make up there own mind. I really do thing the people of Halesowen are intelligent enough to work out who they want to vote for. What Mr Peter John is actually doing is making this country into a police state by restricting what readers get to see!

HoldtheFrontPage (01/06/2009 10:47:09)
To be fair to be Peter John, Philip, he and his company are taking the approach of NOT restricting what readers get to see.

Mr_Osato (01/06/2009 12:35:21)
What some of the BNP trolls here may be interested to learn is that Newsquest (an American company – interesting that you ‘nationalists’ choose not to buy British) has banned ads for escort services and massage parlours, most of them at least nominally legal (even if they are a front for illegal activities). Journalists fail to understand why it can’t be equally discriminating about a political party that wants to have convicted criminals, many of whom have espoused racist views and sympathy for the Nazis and the Klu Klux Klan, ‘representing’ us in the European parliament.

Moggy (01/06/2009 14:03:11)
What ever you say People will always have there own views, so lets just see what happens and remember you can never say never! stanger things have happened Who ever thought America would have a black president. And this is a free country so let them speak.

Adam Barrah (01/06/2009 14:56:46)
I don’t support the BNP, but surely freedom of speech swings both ways. You can’t live in a democracy and deny minority groups their say, no matter how repulsive you find them, an opportunity to make their case.
Isn’t a society which restricts groups which do not agree with the state sanctioned stance veering close to fascism?

Tim N (01/06/2009 16:37:58)
It seems to me that those who think this is a freedom of speech issue are confused and are being confused. Remember: newspapers have always been politically partisan. Do the advocates of “free speech” on here think the Daily Mail should be forced to take advertising from the Communist Party of Great Britain, for example? How ridiculous. Consumers have the freedom to buy papers that publish opinions which accord with their political views and editors have the freedom to choose not to publish political opinion or advertising if they do not agree with it. Organisations like the BNP have party political broadcasts on television to represent their policies which viewers have the freedom to turn off. This is not a “freedom of speech” issue, but a moral one. Editors of papers representing diverse communities should not be insulting their readerships by carrying advertising from nasty racists or taking their dirty pennies, however desperate they may be.

ZB (02/06/2009 09:07:58)
It seems odd to be discussing issues of freedom of speech concerning a party that does not, itself, seem to advocate freedom of speech, expression, movement or sexual orientation. It seems to be the norm that extremists like to use laws that they might seek to abolish if in power to defend themselves.

Beano Bob (03/06/2009 14:49:04)
You talk about freedom of speech, but what speedom of freech?
But seriously, let’s not give these fascist any more publicity. Sordid little right wing guttersnipes the lot of them.