UK Newspapers Threatened With Ad Boycott Over Anti-Immigrant Stance

The controversy over Brexit, stemming in large part from fears of uncontrolled immigration, was a big boon to many British newspapers – but they may soon pay a price for allegedly stoking anti-immigrant sentiment with their coverage.


This week, UK activists unveiled a new campaign urging big companies to stop advertising in newspapers they blame for fueling a rash of xenophobic hate crimes targeting immigrants.

The campaign, with the tagline “Stop Funding Hate,” is gathering signatures for a petition urging some of the country’s (and world’s) biggest consumer brands to pull the plug on ad spending unless the newspapers adjust their editorial stance regarding immigration.

The campaigners take issue with headlines and opinion columns that have employed dehumanizing language about immigrants. For example, one column published last year compared migrants from the Middle East to “cockroaches” – a turn of phrase which spurred a rebuttal from UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

After two weeks of activity, the Stop Funding Hate campaign, which is targeting tabloids including The Daily Mail, The Sun and The Express, has attracted 70,000 supporters on social media and almost 35,000 signatures for its online petition.

The first company named in the petition is Virgin Media, with an online video asking the company to stop advertising in these newspapers. It was shared almost 150,000 times in less than two weeks.

Other companies named by the campaign for future petitions include Gillette, EE (the UK’s largest wireless provider), Ford, Land Rover and Visa.

Britain’s newspapers are credited with helping shape public opinion in favor of Brexit during the lead-up to the referendum on June 23. Researchers at Britain’s Loughborough University conducted a study of 1,127 articles about the referendum and related issues from early May to mid-June. It found that when the circulation of the newspapers publishing the articles is taken into account, UK newspapers favored Brexit by a whopping margin of 82% to 18%.

The huge skew was mostly the result of popular tabloids with large readerships -- most notably The Sun, with a circulation of 1.7 million, Daily Mail, with a circulation of 1.5 million, and The Daily Telegraph, with a circ of half a million – declaring support for Leave.

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