It took more than 18 months, plus a couple of stern warnings from the police, and after some broken promises, the Croydon Advertiser has finally managed to deliver an edition on Friday which was clear of tawdry ads for brothels and massage parlours.
It marks a belated admission by the paper’s publishers that they have been in the wrong, taking cash from people who may have been exploiting young women, and some children, who have been the victims of 21st century slavery.
And it marks a hard-fought victory for the campaigners at Croydon Community Against Trafficking.
“The proof that the Advertiser is making a genuine moral change in policy can only be assessed by what actually happens in the newspaper,” Peter Cox, chairman of CCAT, said when Northcliffe Media, the Sadvertiser‘s owners, announced the change in stance nearly two months ago.
“These ads fuel the demand for cheap, unhealthy sex, often provided by women who are victims of trafficking,” Cox said.
Before the latest edition “hit the streets”, the newspaper’s editor, Glenn Ebrey, had stated publicly, “Our policy is now clear – we will not publish escort agency/massage parlour adverts in the Croydon Advertiser.”
This “clear” “policy” was supposed to have been in place from January 1. But like previous promises from Sadvertiser management, this failed to be delivered in a timely fashion.
Ebrey was forced to admit via Twitter that a couple of brothel ads had “appeared in error at start of Jan but I’ve had assurances this won’t happen again”.
Inside Croydon approached this story in August 2010, highlighting the Sadvertiser‘s crass incompetence by carrying a News of the Screws-style front page splash “exposing” what it called a “sinister” West Croydon brothel, while carrying ads for the same establishment in its own classified pages. Ads for the brothel continued to run for several weeks after its front-page “exclusive”.
Inside Croydon also flagged up the newspaper’s “utter hypocrisy”. Its news desk had been tipped off about the brothel, and other similar massage parlours, escort operations and knocking shops in Croydon, months earlier by CCAT. Yet when CCAT wrote a letter to complain about the paper’s continued advertising of these illegal businesses, the newspaper refused to carry their letter.
We were happy to publish the CCAT letter. The craven Sadvertiser never grew the balls to be able to do so.
Here at Inside Croydon, we are not going to get carried away with any notion that the Sadvertiser has willingly decided to do the right thing. Rather, we suspect that they have bowed to increasing external pressure, both economic and legal.
“The Croydon Advertiser has always taken its obligation to act within current legislation seriously,” said a spokesman for Northcliffe Media, a subsidiary of the Daily Mail and General Trust. Translated, that suggests that the police had warned the paper again over the advertisements.
Pressure to drop the ads was also coming from local councils.
Especially during the drastic advertising downturn, local newspapers depend heavily on the revenue for advertisements placed by councils for planning applications and other activities. The councils are required by law to place some advertisements with some local papers.
Yet in neighbouring Sutton, the council has agreed with CCAT a statement of principle against placing ads with newspapers that carry sex industry ads.
Croydon Council, always happier to do the expedient thing rather than doing the right thing, has stopped short of carrying out such a threat. But it was only a month ago that Dudley Mead, the deputy leader of Croydon Council, needed to have it pointed out to him that the Sadvertiser was continuing to promote the work of brothels and massage parlours in Croydon.
In a written answer at Town Hall questions last week, Mead indicated that even Croydon would seek to avoid supporting the Brothel Advertiser: “Whilst agreeing that the Croydon Advertiser should not accept this type of advertising in the short-term it is not possible to boycott them paper as the council has a statutory obligation to place certain notices in the paper.
“In future it would be better and cheaper if such notices were [placed] wherever possible in Your Croydon.”
According to its most recent independently audited circulation figures, the Croydon Advertiser‘s sales had hit an all-time low of less than 12,000 per week.
- Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough, free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
- Brothel ads are fine with me, says Croydon councillor (insidecroydon.com)
- Twitter and Barwell’s mates on the Brothel Advertiser (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon, 21st century slavery and the sex trade (insidecroydon.com)