When politicians buy the newspaper front pages, they create fake news

When politicians buy the newspaper front pages, they create fake news, by Fraser Nelson.

Newspapers everywhere are in trouble, with advertising revenues down about 20 per cent a year. Local newspapers are worst hit and many are on the brink of collapse, sacking staff and pages. But there can be no more depressing sign of their distress than to see newspaper owners selling front pages to political parties.

Look at the above pictures: both are designed to deceive the reader and look like genuine front pages. They’re created by Labour and Conservative spin doctors, printed as so-called “cover wrap” adverts. Sure, there’s a blink-and-you-miss-it caveat saying “political advertisement” in the Labour one (left) for the Copeland by-election, there’s hardly any branding at all. The aim is to create a fake newspaper cover, using a headline and picture as a newspaper does. The aim is to deceive. To dress up propaganda as news: or, as to give this technique its proper name, fake news.

Until very recently, no newspaper company would have dreamt of handing its entire front page over to a political party on any day, let alone polling day. To be sure, papers do offer page-one endorsements of political parties – but it’s a big decision and almost always a decision based on which party’s agenda most relates to their readers’ instincts. Now, the Tories seem to have pioneered a new trick: writing their own front-page endorsements, and paying newspapers to run them. While Labour has tried this tactic, and Lib Dems did it ahead of the EU referendum, it seems the Tories have the biggest budget for “fake news” front pages on election day. This also lets the party circumvent local election spending rules as the splurge is categorised as national election spend.


hat-tip Stephen Neil