Scottish media’s editorial independence queried after commercial tie-up with 2014 Commonwealth Games

The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games media partnership has been questioned by former news editor of The Observer, Sunday Telegraph and Daily and Sunday Mirror, after it emerged that various companies accepted a five figure sum to become a media partner.

The companies that were named as media partners last month make up the majority of titles serving the central belt of Scotland and beyond.

Those include The Daily Record and Sunday Mail, the Scottish Sun and Times Scotland, The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times, Scottish Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, Scotsman, Press and Journal and the Courier as well a wide range of local titles owned by Media Scotland and Johnson Press. Real and Smooth Radio have been made official media partner.

According to an industry insider, each company has received a payment of around £30,000.

Each partner will be given non-exclusive rights to support and associate with the high-profile campaign to sell up to one million tickets over the next year and will see each organisation promote their association with the use of a Glasgow 2014 Official Media Partners Programme brand.

Writing for The Drum, Boffey queried where the commercial agreement left investigative journalism for the publishers involved, and whether it created a conflict of interest.

“I am pretty sure the advertising sales at each of the media outlets are hugging themselves with glee at contractual partnership. But where does that leave investigative journalism?” said Boffey.

“Of course journalism is a commercial operation but going into a contractual relationship with an event that will have a large number of controversial stories is debatable,” he said.

Glasgow 2014 Games organising committee chose not to comment further, pointing The Drum to its initial statements released last month.

Those included a quote from Janette Harkess, head of media for the Games, who said: "Given the quality and diversity of the proposals received we took the decision to collaborate with a number of Official Media Partners for the Glasgow 2014 Ticketing Programme.

"The ideas and enthusiasm for the Games and our sports programme re-enforced in our minds the huge potential benefits that come from having a range of media partners helping Glasgow 2014 connect with audiences that individually they know and serve so well.

“We are delighted to be working with Official Media Partners who are committed to delivering packed stadia and sharing the excitement and sporting excellence coming Scotland’s way next year.”

The Drum contacted each of the organisations which have been named a media partner, but only two responded.

Said Tom Thomson, group managing editor of The Herald & Evening Times Group: "The Games organisers have no control over or influence on coverage by its brands, The Herald, Evening Times, Sunday Herald and heraldscotland.com.

"The situation is exactly the same as with commercial advertisers. Similar partnerships at the London Olympics did not deter the media from hard-hitting coverage," he concluded.

Allan Rennie, editor in chief of Media Scotland, also denied that the money would see the games have any editorial control: "Editorial is independent of any commercial deals so there's no issue. We're proud to be media partners and, along with the majority of Scots, we're proud to be supporting the Games."

The partnerships were agreed after media companies were invited to submit proposals based on content, commercial value, audience reach and fit, the Games organisers have explained. the successful partners will now participate in online, on-air and in-paper advertising, bespoke supplements, and other initiatives in supporting ticketing promotions and sales efforts as a result.

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