Mayor blasted as 'propaganda' costs balloon

Shunned by advertisers cost of 'The Londoner' soars to £3.5 million

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The Mayor's newspaper, The Londoner, is racking up huge losses to the taxpayer as commercial advertisers have chosen not to use it, according to evidence presented to a London Assembly Committee.

The publication costs more than £3 million a year to produce and but it only recoups a fraction of its costs from advertising. 

When asked during a meeting of the Assembly's Budget Committee why The Londoner had made just £16,000 in advertising income in three editions since February 2004, Redmond O'Neill, the Mayor's Policy Director for Public Affairs and Transport, said that seeking advertising in the publication was still in its early days.

Andrew Pelling AM, Chair of the Committee, said: "It seems incredible that The Londoner costs millions to produce, yet advertising space is sold for a pittance.  There can be virtually no mark up between advertising costs and how much is charged for the space.

“The Mayor's newspaper is funded almost completely from public money, yet little effort is made to ensure Londoners get value for money.  A publication with a circulation of three million should be making more money and costing tax payers less."

The publication is heavily cross subsidised by other agencies that come under the Mayor. Transport for London provides over £1.5 million and the London Tourist Board was recently asked to provide £310,000. The funding by TfL is particularly controversial in the light of a recent announcement by the Mayor that fares on the tubes and buses may have to rise by more than the rate of inflation despite pre-election promises to the contrary.

The Londoner follows a pattern of local authorities launching their own publications in an attempt to by-pass what they feel is unfavourable reporting in the media. The Mayor has been involved in a long running feud with the Evening Standard over allegations printed about his personal life. Advertisers outside the private sector are reluctant to use these official publications as many believe that the 'Pravda' style reporting means that an overwhelming proportion of copies are discarded unread. Hounslow Council have recently attracted criticism from opposition politicians for allegedly distributing political material along with their HM Magazine and the lack of revenue from non-Council related sources has meant that they have needed to secure extra funding.

September 16, 2004