The Eastbourne Herald announced this week that it was conducting a full review into whether it would accept any editorial style advertisement ‘wraps’ in the future, in particular those from political parties.
It follows comments from readers on social media about a front page advertisement and wrap purchased by the Conservative Party last week.
Editor In Chief Gary Shipton said the wrap had been available to any political party and had been sold as advertisement space in exactly the same way that any commercial business would have been able to purchase it. Similar wraps had appeared from this and other parties on local newspapers across the country.
It was marked as an advertiser’s announcement with a message reinforcing this within the paper.
“But it is clear from the comments we have received that some people feel that this type of advertisement, presented as it was by the Conservative Party in an editorial style, gave the impression that the newspaper supported the party,” said Mr Shipton.
“That could not be further from the truth. We are proudly and fiercely politically independent. Our only concern is to champion this community and all its residents and workers irrespective of their political outlook.
“We very much regret it if some readers were given the impression that our neutrality has been compromised.
“In those circumstances it is wholly appropriate to review our advertising policy so that we clearly respond to the genuine concerns of our readers and the people in this community.”
In law, political parties are entitled to place advertisements promoting their views and there is a long history of them doing so - mainly through poster sites, television and the national media.
“During the run up to this election we have carried advertising locally for several political parties but it is unusual for any of them to purchase space in the local press in the way that they have this time and it was unprecedented for any of them to request a wrap,” continued Mr Shipton. “This goes to show how tight all parties believe this election to be and their belief in the power of local newspapers as a way to engage with local communities.
“Newspapers are allowed by the regulator to be partisan if they wish and to campaign on behalf of political groups - and many nationals have traditionally done so. But we firmly reject such an approach. We are fiercely independent and seek to represent all views. We support no party and forensically ensure all parties receive equal editorial coverage in the run up to any election. That is why we are taking readers’ concerns so seriously and are determined to address them responsibly.”