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August 30, 2023

Conservative Party apologises for sending ‘Chronicle’ fake local papers on Chronicle Week’s turf

The Conservative Party distributed three Chronicle-branded pamphlets in areas covered by MNA's Chronicle Week.

By Bron Maher

The Conservative Party has apologised to the publisher of several Midlands newspapers after it distributed newspaper-style campaign literature in the area under trademarks owned by the company.

The Conservatives said it was a “genuine mistake” that the three pamphlets resembled editions of MNA Media’s Chronicle Week. The party has agreed to make a donation to charity as part of its apology.

The three fake papers were titled the Wolverhampton Chronicle, the Sandwell Chronicle and the Dudley Chronicle, and were sent directly to homes in those areas.

According to MNA Media, also known as the Midland News Association, the leaflets “were designed to mimic the style of a newspaper and they caused confusion among many who received them, who believed they were reading their usual Chronicle”.

However, those names are trademarked by the MNA, which also publishes the Express and Star newspaper in Wolverhampton.

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One of the ‘newspapers’ distributed by the Conservative Party last month

The "Wolverhampton Chronicle" - election material sent out by the Conservative Party ahead of a July 2023 by-election. Picture: MNA Media
The “Wolverhampton Chronicle” – election material sent out by the Conservative Party ahead of a July 2023 by-election. Picture: MNA Media

The actual Chronicle Week newspaper

The actual most recent edition of MNA Media's Chronicle Week. Picture: MNA Media
The actual most recent edition of MNA Media’s Chronicle Week. Picture: MNA Media

In an advertisement published in Wednesday’s Express and Star the Conservative Party said: “It has been brought to our attention the titles of all three of these party-political leaflets were titled the same as three newspapers published and owned by MNA Media.

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“This was a genuine mistake, and it was never our intention to mislead residents. We understand the confusion this may have caused, and we sympathise with the reputational damage this could cause an independent media outlet with nearly 150 years’ service to your local community.

“MNA Media has never been and continues not to be associated with the Conservative Party. We therefore would like to apologise to the MNA Media Group.”

The company’s managing director Matt Ross said it was “vitally important that we protect both their integrity and the rights of our readers who look to our titles for reliable and objective news and information…

“As a trusted media organisation, soon to be celebrating our 150th year of publishing, we have previously suffered similar infringements from organisations prepared to mislead readers by attempting deceitfully to strengthen the provenance of material they publish.”

Similar mimicry occurred elsewhere during this summer’s by-elections, with Conservative election materials targeting voters in Selby and Ainsty as the “North Yorkshire Chronicle” and in Somerset as the “Somerton and Frome Chronicle”.

And last year – and going back to at least 2019both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties have been criticised for distributing campaign literature that resembled news publications.

Ross continued: “Although the matter has been resolved amicably and to the benefit of local charities, I am utterly bemused why an institution like the Conservative Party should seek to camouflage its identity in such a way.

“There was no reference to the party whatsoever on the majority of materials. In my experience individuals who are proud to be associated with the brand they represent would never seek to disguise their identity.”

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
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  • CFO
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  • Other C-Suite
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  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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