The East London Advertiser has declared war against Tower Hamlets council’s free weekly newspaper East End Life, which it says is being subsidised by the taxpayer.
The Advertiser claims that the paper, which launched in 1993 to silence a threat from the growth of teh British National Party, has been dubbed East London Lies by local people, and estimates it is losing £20,000 a week and is set to expand next month. The council claims the figure is nearer £8.5 k per week.
Apart from the pressure this has caused on the Advertiser in terms of advertising revenue, the Archant weekly has expressed concern over the publicly-funded free paper “masquerading” as an independent publication carrying hard news and paying agencies for court reports.
Advertiser editor Malcolm Starbrook said: ‘There is no problem with competition as long as the competition is on a level playing field, that it is open and above board. The council’s paper is not equal competition; it is heavily subsidised and has hardly any financial constraints. You have a newspaper that doesn’t have a profit and loss statement, no publicly audited liability and is increasingly going after the same advertising market that we do.
“The borough has a lot of services which are being axed such as the provision of free home help for the needy. The cost of the newspaper is diverting the cash that could be spent on taxpayers of Tower Hamlets; one of the most deprived boroughs in London.
“The paper is not independent. It doesn’t exist to promote the cause of Tower Hamlet in the borough, it exists to promote the cause of the ruling Labour party.”
Former Bethnal Green and Bow MP Oona King’s column was axed after she lost her seat to George Galloway.
According to the Advertiser, the council claims the title costs £450,000 to publish each year.
Labour has a one-seat majority on Tower Hamlets council and it is understood opposition parties are urging for the council paper to be scrapped.
Archant is now threatening to report the paper to the Office of Fair Trading with the backing of the Newspaper Society.