Advertising regulator rebuffs complaints made against Evening Standard following Uber article

The Advertising Standards Authority will take no further action against a controversial Uber article appearing in the Evening Standard after complaints made were rebuffed. London Assembly Member, Caroline Pidgeon, made a formal complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) on the grounds that an article featuring Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was really an advertorial. The complaint came after the much publicised formal financial arrangement between the minicab company and the Evening Standard was revealed by openDemocracy. The article appearing in October 2018 raised many eyebrows amongst senior figures in City Hall, the taxi industry and the widespread media community, which pushed the ASA to launch an immediate investigation into the popular London paper. The article in question had appeared to have been presented as news and it was argued that it failed to highlight the £3 million commercial link between the paper and the ride-hailing company. The multi-million pound deal called Future London offers a select few companies, which includes Uber and Google, “money-can’t-buy” positive news and comment, according to an openDemocracy report in May 2018. Upon reviewing the article the ASA Council stated that the Evening Standard provided evidence of the contractual relationship with Uber, which required the Evening Standard to publish pieces of content as part of the London 2020 / Turning London Electric / Clean Air Campaign. However, the Evening Standard maintained that the article in question was not from the programme of work outlined in the contract and that they had sole editorial control of the article. With that in mind, the ASA Council said : “They were satisfied that the articles complained about were not part the contract between Uber and the Evening Standard and additionally had no reason to doubt the Evening Standard’s assertion that it retained sole editorial control of the articles.” “Taking this into account, Council considered that the contract between Uber and the Evening Standard was not directly relevant to whether the articles were effectively paid for and controlled by Uber.  They therefore considered that the material fell short of the advertorial definition as there were no grounds to assume that the articles were controlled by Uber and disseminated in exchange for payment or some other reciprocal arrangement. Council considered that both articles were purely editorial and fell outside the ASA’s remit.” The ASA went on to add: “Given that there are no good grounds to consider that the articles complained about were controlled by Uber and disseminated in exchange for payment or some other reciprocal arrangement, the articles fall outside the remit of the CAP Code. Given this, we won’t be taking any further action.’ 

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