Capital and LBC owner Global Radio advised stations to drop HSBC story

The UK’s largest commercial radio group, Global Radio, advised its stations, which include Classic FM, Capital and LBC, to drop the HSBC tax story on the morning the story broke for “editorial reasons”.

Global, which broadcasts to about 23 million listeners a week, advised its stations not to run reports about the banking giant after it was revealed that the bank’s Swiss subsidiary helped wealthy customers dodge taxes and conceal millions of dollars in assets.

Its stations, which also include the Heart, Smooth, Xfm and Gold networks, were told by the company’s management to drop the HSBC story from about 8.45am on 9 February, the day the story broke.

Coverage of the story was then resumed by the stations “some days later”, according to an inquiry by media regulator Ofcom first revealed in Private Eye.

Global Radio is run by Ashley Tabor, son of multimillionaire racehorse owner Michael Tabor, who helped bankroll the purchase of the stations that make up the group. Michael Tabor is worth £600m, according to the Sunday Times rich list published last month.

Ofcom’s radio licensing manager Jon Heasman wrote in an email: “Global confirmed that it had advised all of its radio stations to drop the HSBC story from around 8.45am onwards on 9 February.

“It provided Ofcom with editorial reasons why it had taken this decision. It also said that its radio stations had resumed coverage of the story some days later.”

Heasman, responding to an inquiry about the station’s coverage of HSBC from a listener, replied: “We were satisfied that there was no evidence of any third party influencing Global’s decision on this matter, or any evidence that the independence of its news coverage had been compromised.

“We wrote to Global requesting recordings of its news output across a number of its radio stations on that day. We also asked the company a number [of] detailed questions about the issue.”

The Daily Telegraph’s coverage of the HSBC story became the focus of attention following the resignation of its chief political commentator Peter Oborne, claiming the paper had deliberately suppressed stories about the banking giant and describing it as a “fraud on its readers”.

In response the Telegraph said it had made an editorial decision not to pursue the story despite it being covered extensively by most of its rivals and broadcasters.

The lack of coverage of HSBC’s tax affairs across Global’s many stations prompted a complaint to the media regulator. An Ofcom spokesperson said had been “carefully assessed”.

“After considering evidence from Global, we were satisfied that there was no indication that the independence of its news coverage had been compromised. Therefore, we will not be taking the matter forward for investigation.”

Global Radio had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.


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