From top: Project 2040 advertorial in Saturday’s Irish Times and Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy
On RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke.
Further to a Dail discussion about Government-sponsored advertorials – via the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s Strategic Communications Unit – in relation to the National Development Plan being published in the Irish Independent and Irish Times…
And today’s front page story in the Times Ireland edition by Ellen Coyne about similar advertorials made to look like independent news articles in regional newspapers and similar coverage of Creative Ireland last summer…
And an article in yesterday’s The Sunday Times – by Justine McCarthy – in which it was reported that financial advisor Karl Deeter and economist Constantin Gurdgiev were never told they were being interviewed for State-paid advertorials when they gave comments to The Herald for articles about the National Development Plan…
Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy was asked by Mr O’Rourke about the Social Democrats’ decision to make a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority over paid coverage of the Government plan for Project 2040.
Mr O’Rourke also mentioned the front page story in today’s Times Ireland edition by Ellen Coyne (more below)
Ms Murphy said:
“Yes, because essentially there’s advertisements that are, there’s really propaganda. There’s a difference between journalism and propaganda and propaganda is something you pay for. The whole area of journalism is incredibly important and the fourth estate in relation to an aspect of our system that holds people to account.
“…If somebody is reading one of those papers, I mean there’s a great deal of trust in terms of regional newspapers, you know, in terms of they’re bought very often, and people feel they’re very reliable. You start interfering with you, start paying for advertisement – this is the Strategic Communications Unit…
“There’s an ethical issue here and there’s an issue for the Advertising Standards Authority. If this is an advertisement, it should be marked as an advertisement. If this is genuine journalism, it shouldn’t, there shouldn’t be an issue.”
In today’s Times Ireland edition…
Ellen Coyne reports:
Regional newspapers were instructed to make government advertorials look like independent stories and in some cases part of “the normal news cycle,” The Times can reveal.
Editors at several local titles raised concerns after they were instructed not to clearly mark as a commercial feature sponsored content about Ireland 2040, the national development plan.
A similar campaign for Creative Ireland, the government’s cultural programme, also banned newspapers from marking its adverts and said that newspapers would have covered the content anyway, The Times has learnt.
…The 15-person strategic communications unit (SCU) was set up by Mr Varadkar when he succeeded Enda Kenny as taoiseach. It is led by John Concannon, former head of Creative Ireland.
…One local editor told The Times: “This is fake news. Newspapers are struggling and the government know that, so they’ve got us by the balls.”
Following on from Ms Murphy’s comments about the Strategic Communications Unit and the advertorials, Fine Gael TD Noel Rock (above) spoke to Sean O’Rourke about the same.
Noel Rock: “They’re clearly identified, from the readers’ perspective. I mean, I’ve yet to see a single example of one that hasn’t been clearly identified. All I’ve seen so far are the ones in the [Irish] Independent, in The Herald, on the Journal, which said at the top and the tail ‘sponsored content’.”
Sean O’Rourke: “Maybe if we had a copy of one of those 15 regional print and online news titles, you’d get a different impression.”
Rock: Perhaps but they have yet to be produced. All I’ve seen is a trumped-up charge and a press release.”
O’Rourke: “Oh, hold on now. Trumped-up charge. That’s a pretty loaded statement. I mean you’re suggesting that there’s fake news on the front of the Times Ireland edition today?”
Rock: “What I’m saying is there’s a complaint been made to the ASA about legal, decent, honest and truthful standards in advertising. And I’ve yet to see any proof whatsoever in that regard. What I do see…”
O’Rrourke: “Proof is one thing, evidence is another. I suppose it’s for the [Advertising] Standards Authority to decide which is which. We’ll leave it there for now…”
Listen back in full here