Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Fulham Chronicle/H&F Council support prostitution

I received a pleasant surprise this week-end as the Fulham Chronicle was actually delivered for the first time in many months in our part of W12. I assumed this was because of the new deal the paper has agreed with the Council to carry political propaganda - part of the six year contract must stipulate full coverage of the borough.

So apart from the fact that this £75,000 a year deal, which inevitably raises questions about how impartial the papers reporting can now be, I leafed through the pages to see that it seemed to have had a few design improvements as well.

Which sadly includes, in the classified back pages, almost a whole page worth of advertising for prostitutes in the borough and around the rest of west London. Euphemisms like "massage services" and various other red-light phrases abounded across the page. All of them were completely clear - it was about prostitution and not much else.

Now in fairness to the Chronicle they are not the first and certainly won't be the last local paper prepared to take wads of advertising cash from pimps and brothels. To them it's just a straight business decision, and they obviously don't think the impact this activity has on local residents is worth bothering too much about. 

But they are the first local paper in the UK that I am aware of that has agreed to carry the local Council's political propaganda in the form of a whopping great advertising contract which has specific stipulations that the Council has "free space" with which to "inform residents". Much as they did through "H&F News" which the Secretary of State for Local Government called "propaganda on the rates" and forced the Council to close.

And before anyone dismisses this as not that important consider what all of this is about; the residents who have to live next door to it but also the impact on the women themselves, many of whom are likely to be trafficked into the UK and victims of horrendous physical and emotional abuse. In the course of my job I have met women who have been forced into prostitution and I can tell you there is nothing whatsoever sexual about it - it is basically rape.

In fact the Metropolitan Police have written to newspaper editors about this as recently as November, pleading with them to stop taking money from pimps, Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Martin, head of the Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Unit of the Metropolitan Police, said this:
"The adverts often purport to be massage parlours, saunas or escort agencies, but are in reality a front for criminal networks to advertise trafficked victims for sexual services. 
"Advertisements that offer multi-national or young women or which are sexually suggestive in tone are often the type found to be linked to the provision of sexual services and / or the presence of trafficked women. 
"It is these types of adverts I am seeking your support in preventing. I would ask that you put in place a system to satisfy yourselves that those seeking to place advertisements are genuine concerns or businesses and not a cover for the criminal activity highlighted above".
But the owners of the Fulham Chronicle, publishers Trinity Mirror, obviously don't think any of that is worth giving up their advertising revenue for. It's all about priorities, you see. Remember that the next time you see one of the regular editorials in the Fulham Chronicle talking about how they are "part of the local community".

And before you hear either the Chronicle or owners Trinity Mirror harp on about how they couldn't possibly do without the cash, consider that Newsquest - which is also a large owner of local newspapers in London - has already decided not to take any more ads from pimps and brothels in it's "adult services" section. So it can be done - but it's a question of priorities. 

Because, as Denise Marshall OBE, Chief Executive of Eaves Housing, which looks after women trafficked into the sex trade, says:

 “In London’s local papers, 80 per cent of ads for adult massage parlours or saunas are fronts for brothels, where men can buy sex. Newspaper owners turn a blind eye to this, insisting that they do not advertise anything illegal, while banking their gains from the sex industry.
“The irony is that local papers are full of articles about the problems caused by or related to prostitution – the blight of kerb-crawling on local neighbourhoods, the increase in drug crime – but they are directly contributing to the problem by advertising brothels." 
That's the sort of direct contribution the Chronicle is happy to make, it seems, to our local community. 

So how on earth can H&F Council justify supporting a newspaper, to which it now already gives £75,000 a year of our tax payers money, that itself is happy to promote local prostitution?

H&F Council - you are now effectively the paymasters of the Fulham Chronicle - use your influence to insist that the Chronicle stops promoting local pimps and prostitution by removing these adverts now.


  1. Ah, I do miss H&F News...

  2. I'm sure the Tories on the Council could argue that prostitutes are entrepreneurs - like themselves.

  3. The fact that the prostitution industry is illegal here only drives it underground and makes it less safe for the women who work in it.

    The only way to really help victims of trafficking and forced prostitution, is to legalise and license the brothels, get the workers paying tax, and pool the extra revenue generated into making it a safer place for women. Then rooting out the traffickers and victims of trafficking can be prioritised and hopefully more women can be helped and more traffickers can be jailed. Chasing after subliminal local newspaper ads is pretty pointless as they will just go online (along with 99% of the rest of the industry).

    I don't condone the ads, but it's clutching at straws to think that it will have any effect on helping curb prostitution and help vulnerable trafficked women. Unfortunately though, this government (and it's predecessors) will never look at the bigger picture because this country (and its press) would reject it without allowing it a chance - just like with drug prohibition laws.

  4. a valid point of view - but I still don't think the idea of a newspaper which claims to be a "part of the community" and has reported sympathetically on residents campaigns against sleaze clubs can at the same time work with pimps to promote prostitution - without rightly being held to account for being deeply cynical.

    The only other thing I'd say is I don't think the people who have to bring up kids next door to the establishments you think should be legal would be much in favour.

  5. Probably all the more reason to have a licensing policy which ensures that (legal) establishments are kept to suitable areas (i.e. not next to schools or in residential/family areas).

    I am deeply against all forms of forced prostitution and trafficking but banning 'massage service' ads will do nothing to help in this regard. A campaign to legalise the industry and compel sex workers to register with the authorities, work legally, pay tax, get compulsory health check-ups and access to industry support bodies would do so much more.

    Unfortunately, I can never see this country electing a government on a mandate to make a sensible policy shift like this. Which is a shame.

  6. Couple of points:

    First, the adverts are legal because the services offered are legal. Even the unadvertised, implied services are legal. This is because prostitution is legal.

    Your confusion seems to be that operating a bothel (which is any establishment where more than one person is offering sex for money) is not legal.

    If any of these advertisers were routinely breaking the law, I'd have assumed police intelligence would welcome the publication of a list of phone numbers each week. This should be particularly true if the prostitution was part of a larger network of organised crime.

    As for human trafficking, it's an appalling crime of course. But let's at least acknowledge that the evidence of it being a widespread problem is sketchy at best. ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/20/trafficking-numbers-women-exaggerated )

    Finally, the article suggests the prostitutes are a public nuisance. Can you put a source to that? I'd rather like to see quote from any resident who is upset by the presence of an escort agency or massage parlour on their patch. Because, if you can't offer evidence, the whole article begins to look less like journalism and more like your own moral hypochondria.

  7. First of all it's hard to take anyone who hides behind anonymity seriously. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if you weren't connected to the Fulham Chronicle in some way.

    Secondly if the police were so relaxed why would they write the letter they have to newspapers

    Thirdly are you seriously suggesting human trafficking is not that much of a problem? Again, it's hard to take you seriously on that score alone

    And finally you say you need to see a quote from a resident to convince you that they might not like massage parlours on their patch.

    Here's one then: "If ordinary people don't stand up for keeping their borough free from such business, then the atmosphere of our neighbourhoods will be determined not by decent families and businesses but by an ever-growing sleaze factor."

    That was in the Fulham Chronicle reporting on how residents don't like massage parlours being in their part of Hammersmith and the Council taking action against them last year.

    But as I say, it's hard to take you seriously in the first place.

  8. Ah. How irritating. It seems my response to your response seems to have disappeared. I guess this must be a problem with Blogspot so I'll try putting it elsewhere.