Mike Tuffrey, the distinguished Liberal Democrat London Assembly member, is displeased with Boris Johnson and with Transport for London (TfL), whose board Boris chairs. This is not unusual, but the particular reason for Tuffrey’s present annoyance distills some significant issues. The headline irritant is the failure of the mayor to answer two questions Tuffrey asked last month – questions that should have received written replies a fortnight ago. They concern TfL’s contract with Associated Newspapers and the London edition of its Metro freesheet, which is distributed each weekday morning at about 250 Underground stations.
Tuffrey wants to know how much revenue is has been generated for TfL by the deal since 2008 and how much of this revenue has been invested in public transport…
Tuffrey has his suspicions: “Could it be that the contract is more to do with the Mayor getting favourable coverage in the Metro and actually very little to do with raising serious money to help improve the Tube?”
By “favourable coverage,” Tuffrey is primarily referring to a page that appears each day in the Metro devoted entirely to news from and about TfL. A polite description for this is that the page is sponsored and could be termed “advertorial.” An impolite one is that it feeds TfL propaganda to commuters. Even more impolite would be the assertion that since TfL’s job is to do what the mayor wants, it is ultimately propaganda in praise of Boris Johnson.