"Surreptitious advertising" - Press Council reprimands Tagblatt der Stadt Zürich

The Press Council has approved a complaint against the Tagblatt der Stadt Zürich. An article about an event with former Federal Councilor Christoph Blocher was considered surreptitious advertising.

In November 2021, the newspaper published an article about an event on leadership, strategy and decision-making with former Federal Councilor Christoph Blocher. An employee of the organizing company Flowcast had written the text. She praised the event in the highest terms, pointed out the next event and published a web address where videos of the described event can be ordered for money. The newspaper ran this text as if it were an editorial text and nowhere indicated who had written the text. The Press Council decided that this was surreptitious advertising and that the "Declaration of the Duties and Rights of Journalists" had been violated.

He justifies his judgment as follows: "The article is entirely uncritical and describes the event exclusively in positive terms. This alone is not a violation of the journalist code. Three other findings weigh more heavily. First, the author is not a journalist of the Tagblatt, but an employee of the organizer CA-Media. Second, in the text she advertises the next event and the company's website. There, the "leadership seminars" with Christoph Blocher are offered for sale as video or audio recordings, in some cases for several hundred francs. The text is thus very much commercially oriented. Due to the enthusiastic description of the event, it is comparable to a public report in terms of language and content. Whether or not money was spent on the event is of little importance. The text has a strong advertising effect in favor of the company, but is not declared as advertising. And the benefit for the Tagblatt can also consist in the fact that the editorial staff has obtained a page-filling content with a prominent and attractive personality without any effort and free of charge. Thirdly, the design of the advertising contribution is based on the normal layout of the Tagblatt. And it appears in the page header under the editorial heading "News". Based on all these elements, the contribution is to be characterized as surreptitious advertising."

In a subsequently requested statement on the author of the article, the editor-in-chief writes that the Tagblatt lacked the resources to cover an all-day event itself. Therefore, the organizers had been asked to provide the basic material for the article so that the editorial staff could compile the article with follow-up questions. It was a common practice, he said, to write articles based on press releases, texts sent in or basic material ordered. (sda.)

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