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Telegraph columnist claims paper suppressed HSBC tax scandal to protect ad revenues

Respected Telegraph columnist Peter Oborne has abruptly quit the paper on ethical grounds after complaining that its billionaire owners, the Barclay brothers, had suppressed coverage of HSBC tax avoidance in order to protect advertising revenue.

In a blog post on openDemocracy the broadsheet’s chief political commentator claimed that his boss Murdoch Maclennan, chief executive of the Telegraph media Group, had openly conceded that advertising considerations could trump editorial priorities, prompting the dramatic resignation.

Citing ‘slim’ recent coverage of the affair and ‘discouragement’ of a number of investigations mounted against the financial organisation Oborne warned that democracy was being ‘imperilled’ by ‘shadowy’ media bosses pulling the strings.

Oborne wrote: “You needed a microscope to find the Telegraph coverage: nothing on Monday, six slim paragraphs at the bottom left of page two on Tuesday, seven paragraphs deep in the business pages on Wednesday.

“The Telegraph’s recent coverage of HSBC amounts to a form of fraud on its readers. It has been placing what it perceives to be the interests of a major international bank above its duty to bring the news to Telegraph readers.”

Dismissing Oborne’s outspoken attack as ‘inaccurate’ a Telegraph spokesperson ‘utterly refuted’ the accusations, adding: ““It is a matter of huge regret that Peter Oborne, for nearly five years a contributor to the Telegraph, should have launched such an astonishing and unfounded attack, full of inaccuracy and innuendo, on his own paper.”