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 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.
One of the ‘newspapers’ distributed by the Conservative Party last month
The actual Chronicle Week newspaper
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.
“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”.
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.”
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