Paid advertisements for the oil industry have run unlabelled as editorial content on the websites of the Vancouver Sun and Regina Leader-Post — yet Canada’s ad regulator has decided not to rule against Postmedia, the company that owns the papers.
DeSmog Canada filed a complaint with Advertising Standards Canada on March 4, regarding a story published on the Vancouver Sun’s website on Dec. 4, 2013, with the headline “Born to the Challenge: Janet Holder’s B.C. roots make her the perfect lead on Northern Gateway.”
The article told the tale of how Holder came to be Enbridge’s VP of Western Access, responsible for pushing the Northern Gateway oil tanker and pipeline project. Holder recited the economic claim that Canada is losing $50-million a day due to limited export markets
Economist Robyn Allan read the article and took issue with that economic claim. When she submitted an opinion piece in response, she was informed it couldn’t be run because the article she was responding to was actually a paid advertisement.
“It was clear that the page was set up to look like arms length reporting — even more so on the web than in the printed version of the paper,” Allan told DeSmog Canada. “I had prepared my opinion piece from the web ‘article’ and when I saw the printed version, I became confused—was it reporting or paid-for propaganda? The Sun editorial staff confirmed the page was paid content.”
DeSmog Canada’s complaint with the ad standards agency cited Clause 2 “Disguised Advertising Techniques,” which states: “No advertisement shall be presented in a format or style that conceals its commercial intent.”
After two months, Advertising Standards Canada sent a written reply to DeSmog Canada indicating that it had decided not to issue a ruling against Postmedia.