News Shopper editor Richard Firth, opposition councillors, local MPs and others have their say on Greenwich Council’s ‘Pravda propaganda sheet’ newspaper Greenwich Time.

Greenwich Time – the facts

  • Enormous cost to the taxpayer
  • No attempt at political balance
  • Pretends it’s a ‘proper’ newspaper
  • Roundly criticised by everybody outside Greenwich Council’s ruling party
  • Would never publish negative stories about the council

News Shopper editor Richard Firth said:

Last week, MPs attended a parliamentary debate on council newspapers and their threat to titles like News Shopper.

Those in attendance called on the government to do more to protect local papers against the unfair competition posed by these publications.

Any action as a result of the debate will be decided over the coming months.

In Greenwich, we have Greenwich Time, the most frequently published local authority newspaper in the country.

Greenwich Time makes no attempt to be politically balanced. You won’t see opposition councillors quoted in there.

You won’t read a single word of criticism of the ruling Labour party.

It includes TV listings and sport because the people who produce it want you to think it is a proper newspaper.

It’s printed on newsprint like News Shopper because the people who produce it want you to think it is a proper newspaper.

But it isn’t.

It’s a self-serving propaganda sheet paid for by you, the council tax payer.

Do you remember the council asking you if you wanted hundreds of thousands of pounds of your money spent in this way?

No? That’s right – it didn’t.

It took that decision on your behalf.

Please – if you’re a fan of Greenwich Time (and you don’t work at the town hall), write in and tell us why you like it.

All we’ve been able to find is negativity and resentment that something that says so little is pushed through so many unwilling letterboxes at such a phenomenal cost.

Eltham MP Clive Efford said:

“I am excluded from Greenwich Time quite frequently because of strict rules and fears of breaching them.

“I have been told by Greenwich Time to leave photographs because otherwise they cannot use them.

“I find this unacceptable.”

He added: “I have no objection with Greenwich Time reporting council matters and communication, reaching areas independent papers cannot.

“But where they compete with local newspapers, for instance holding stories to use exclusively for their own publication, that’s not right.

“There must be freedom of speech and information.

“I don’t think it should be in competition with independent papers by taking advertisements.

“News Shopper does an excellent job and I would like to see it continue to do it.”

Erith and Thamesmead MP John Austin said:

“I think there’s a legitimate role for a local civic newspaper as an information giver.

“When I was leader of the council in the 1980s the controls were fairly strict and fairly strictly adehered to.

“It’s a very different paper from that which I was responsible for.

“Apart from the fact it comes out more frequently, it has more than just council information and coverage of TV and the arts.

“One might raise a question as to whether that’s a legitimate role for the council.

“In terms of advertising, you could argue it is not unreasonable if you are producing a council newspaper to get it funded by sources other than the council taxpayer.”

Greenwich and Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford said:

“I do not believe council newspapers have an adverse effect on free speech.

“When I was Local Government Minister I frequently advised councils to be more pro-active in keeping residents informed of their work and a council newspaper can play a useful role in helping achieve this.

“At the same time, I do believe publications issued by local authorities should maintain strict impartiality on party political matters to avoid the risk of propaganda.”

Spencer Drury, Conservative group leader on Greenwich Council, said:

“Words like undemocratic and propaganda absolutely reflect Greenwich Time in my opinion.

“It produces a biased, one-sided point of view.”

He added: “It exists to propagate the Labour council’s ideas and publicise the members of the cabinet.

“But it’s even more insidious than that because it’s pretending to be a local paper when it’s in fact a propaganda sheet.

“It’s a clear pledge of ours to abolish Greenwich Time as a matter of principle.

“The most recent edition (which celebrates Greenwich’s Royal Borough announcement) is a joke.

“If it is talking about the Queen it might have had a picture of her on the front rather than another one of Chris Roberts.”

Darryl Chamberlain, Peninsula ward candidate, Greenwich Green Party, said:

“Greenwich Time definitely damages free speech.

“Newcomers to the area believe it is a genuine local newspaper, while you will never read anything from an opposition councillor in it, or any critical word about the council other than the odd token readers’ letter.”

He added: “You only have to look at the current Royal Greenwich souvenir edition, with a big picture of the council leader on the front, to see just whose interests Greenwich Time promotes.

“Not a single word from any other local politician other than the council leader.

“Clearly it is the toy of the council’s leadership.”

Sev D’Souza, from NOGOE (No to Greenwich Olympic Equestrian Events), said:

“Greenwich Time is referred to locally as Pravda.

“We have occasionally seen letters of ours published.

“I have stopped contacting it because it is a complete waste of time.

“It never reports anything negative about the Olympics.

“We think it’s a form of censorship not to give a balanced view to the reader.

“Frankly there’s no chance of it putting across an opposition case.”

What do you think about Greenwich Time and council-run newspapers in general? Have your say by adding your comments below or click here to email your views to News Shopper