In today’s Times Ireland edition.
Via Richie Oakley
From top: Noel Rock TD; Ellen Coyne of The Times Ireland edition; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Dáil on Tuesday and a segment of an email from Mediaforce Ireland to certain newspapers
Readers may know that The Times Ireland edition has been highlighting how the government’s Strategic Communication Unit’s promotional campaign for Project Ireland 2040 – involved paying for editorial content in local, regional and national newspapers.
The SCU was set up by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, after he was elected leader of Fine Gael and became Taoiseach last year.
It employs 15 people and is led by John Concannon, former head of Creative Ireland. The Government has budgeted the SCU will cost €5million this year.
Times reporter Ellen Coyne is reporting that ad agency Mediaforce Ireland, on behalf of the unit, advised newspapers not to mark the content as advertorial.
And they made the same demands during a similar campaign last summer for Creative Ireland.
Ms Coyne has tweeted a segment of an email sent to newspapers by Mediaforce Ireland, on behalf of the Strategic Communications Unit.
“Part of our deal is that we won’t have any moniker such as ‘advertorial’ or ‘special feature’ or anything like that – it simply runs as normal editorial.”
Ms Coyne has further tweeted that the bold and red highlighted sections in the twee (see above) were exactly how they were presented in emails to newspapers.
During Leader’s Questions on Tuesday, Taoiseach leo Vardkar told the Dáil:
“We have already explained how this [the paid content] works. The communications unit entered into media partnerships with media organisations. What happens there is that those organisations have editorial control over content.“
Readers may recall last Monday’s Today With Sean O’Rourke, when Fine Gael TD Noel Rock had the following exchange.
Noel Rock: “They’re [the paid content] clearly identified, from the reader’s 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…”
— Ellen Coyne (@ellenmcoyne) March 1, 2018
Some articles which ran in regional newspapers last August about Creative Ireland…
Times Ireland edition
Further to several reports this week and last in the Times Ireland edition about the State paying for content about the Government’s National Development Plan Project Ireland 2040 in some newspapers including the Irish Independent and The Irish Times…
And journalists being directed to make advertorial look like news…
Ellen Coyne reports today that some newspapers were told – by the media agency hired by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s Strategic Communications Unit, Mediaforce Ireland – that “if they did a good job writing positive editorial copy about Ireland 2040, they would be paid to write similar content on Brexit”.
It follows Ms Coyne, reporting on Monday, that:
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.”
In today’s report, Ms Coyne reported:
Correspondence between Mediaforce and newspaper editors said that part of its “deal” with the government was that copy would not include a label similar to advertorial and that the sponsored content should look like editorial.
Editors were advised that the reason Mediaforce had been able to secure the Ireland 2040 campaign was because it would ensure that copy would match the “tone” of the newspapers it was running in. Journalists were told to give government copy a local angle and if they did a good job, there would be “more to come” on Brexit.
The SCU claimed it did not direct newspapers to blur the lines between editorial and advertisements. Mediaforce has not responded to requests for comment. The articles were marked as “in partnership” with Ireland 2040 or as “special reports” but more accurate terms such as “commercial feature” or “advertorial” were not used.
In a follow-up to yesterday’s story in the Irish Independent about The Times Ireland edition…
In today’s Irish Independent…
Yesterday: Paper Cuts