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Last Updated: Friday, 30 June 2006, 11:13 GMT 12:13 UK
London: Expensive 'free papers'
Zia Trench
Zia Trench
Politics Show London

Ken Livingstone
London Mayor: 'Free paper' costs 2.8m a year

Every fortnight, I get a free newspaper through my door. I actually like it; it has a back page of 'what's on' in my area.

... And there is a useful emergency helpline section that I keep meaning to cut out and stash somewhere.

Press releases?

But what about the ten or so pages before that; articles that look very much like news, but are actually council press releases.

The first time I saw this paper, it took me a little while to realise that, yes, it is indeed produced by my local council.

I asked people in Hackney, whether they read their local council paper.

Many did and some commented on the "lack of real news". They did not realise it was produced by the council.

Indeed Councils are not obliged to make their authorship obvious.

Is it fair that people do not realise they are getting bias news.

Expensive propaganda?

The most expensive is the Mayor's paper, the "Londoner" costing 2.8m a year.

It is hard to quantify the exact costs of all these "free" papers and magazines, because:

  • some are part-funded by advertising
  • and councils have a statutory requirement to publicise things like planning notices

They might be free, but Londoners are paying around 6m for them.

There are 1986 guidelines; all sorts of emphasis on not over-simplifying issues, or plugging particular people or party-lines especially near to elections.

After months spent collecting these council publications it does appear that a few (and particularly in the weeks running up to elections) were straying from the guidelines.

Also on the programme ... building the Olympic dream

London 2012
The Games were described as a catalyst for investment

It is a year since London was announced as the host city for the 2012 Olympics.

Who can forget the scenes of jubilations amongst Lord Coe and the rest of the bidding team in Singapore and the thousands gathered in Trafalgar Square.

Well, after winning the Games the real job began for Lord Coe ... delivering the Games that London deserves at a price it can afford.

The regeneration of East London was central to London bid for the 2012 Games with promises of benefits both social and economic for the local communities.

So one year on is the double Olympic Gold medallist still up for the challenge?

Find out on Sunday when Lord Coe joins us on the show.

The Politics Show London

The Politics Show returns on Sunday 16 July 2006 at 12:00 on BBC One.

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