The Guardian has an advertisement today from Sainsbury’s. Nothing wrong with that; respectable paper, respectable retailer. It’s the nature of the ad that’s interesting: a big bubble saying Save 10p per litre of fuel, surmounted by a picture of a petrol pump nozzle. You can see were the problem lies, can’t you?
This is the paper that’s sympathetic to Extinction Rebellion, to Greta Thunberg, to the anti-fossil fuel activists who campaign against the British Museum accepting funding from BP, now giving space to a company flogging petroleum cheap, thereby stimulating consumption.
Indeed, on its front page, the Guardian gives coverage to the report from the Committee on Climate Change which is described as “a plan that would mean the end of petrol and diesel cars”. Which will also mean, presumably, the end of promoting cheap fossil fuels in advertisements in national papers.
Money makes hypocrites of the best of us. Indeed, only a few years ago the Guardian Media Group (the Guardian’s parent company) sold its remaining share in AutoTrader magazine, not from moral motives but to help keep its print operations afloat.
Meanwhile, the paper is sounding off today about the Turner Prize taking sponsorship from Stagecoach, on the basis that it is, as the first sentence of the report says, “a company co-founded and chaired by a man who campaigned against gay rights”. So, on the basis that Brian Souter is conscientiously opposed to gay marriage – as am I, come to that – he’s to be barred, it would seem, from sponsoring anything.
If institutions are to turn away sponsors and newspapers are to turn away advertisers on this basis I wonder how any of them are to remain afloat.
The Guardian has, it announces today, only just broken even. It won’t continue to do so if it turns away advertising, but still, perhaps a little more self awareness might help up there on the high moral ground where the air must be very thin.