February 17, 2015 Last Updated 11:00 am

Daily Telegraph under fire after resignation of chief commentator

Peter Oborne resigns, citing “the Telegraph’s recent soft coverage of HSBC”

The Telegraph, the UK conservative broadsheet, is today having to respond to accusations that it has let its news coverage of scandal prone HSBC be influenced by the bank’s advertising account. Peter Oborne, political commentator for the paper, resigned and penned a critical account of the Telegraph’s news coverage concerning HSBC, and what he believes is management’s influence in preventing stories about the bank from appearing or getting front page positioning.

“Reporters were ordered to destroy all emails, reports and documents related to the HSBC investigation,” Oborne said in a letter posted to the Open Democracy website entitled Why I have resigned from the Telegraph.

“Circulation was falling fast when I joined the paper in September 2010, and I suspect this panicked the owners,” Oborne wrote. “Waves of sackings started, and the management made it plain that it believed the future of the British press to be digital.”

Osborne then goes on to say that he believes The Telegraph has responded poorly to its financial difficulties.

“With the collapse in standards has come a most sinister development. It has long been axiomatic in quality British journalism that the advertising department and editorial should be kept rigorously apart. There is a great deal of evidence that, at the Telegraph, this distinction has collapsed,” Oborne says.

Oborne’s main concern is that the paper is downplaying stories regarding HSBC, a bank that has paid fines of money laundering, and has recently been accused of helping customers avoid taxes.

“The reporting of HSBC is part of a wider problem,” Oborne says. “On 10 May last year the Telegraph ran a long feature on Cunard’s Queen Mary II liner on the news review page. This episode looked to many like a plug for an advertiser on a page normally dedicated to serious news analysis. I again checked and certainly Telegraph competitors did not view Cunard’s liner as a major news story. Cunard is an important Telegraph advertiser.”

The Telegraph was founded in 1855. In 1986 the paper was owned by Conrad Black and Hollinger Inc. which owned the Chicago Sun-Times. Black was dismissed as chairman of the Hollinger International board over allegations of financial wrongdoing and the paper was taken over in June 2004 by David and Frederick Barclay. The daily has a circulation of around 523K, with its sister paper, The Sunday Telegraph, at around 400K in circulation.

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