Virgin Trains spat with the Mail shows the hypocrisy of modern attitudes to media

When an advertiser or business partner pulls out of a relationship with a newspaper or TV station the time-honoured response is “boo, hiss,” censorship rearing its (mercifully rare) ugly head.

Such has been the response by many to Virgin Trains’ decision to drop the Daily Mail from its West Coast service, the expensive one to Manchester.

Virgin Trains, in which Sir Richard Branson still plays a role, says this is because the Mail is “no longer compatible” with its beliefs (whatever they may be) and that staff have objected to the Mail’s position on immigration, LGBT matters and unemployment, a rich mixture.

There’s been no detail so far on precisely who objected, why and in which way.

Yet when advertisers and agencies object to inappropriate content on, say, YouTube – in the interests of so-called “brand safety” – few people object and many applaud. But what’s the difference?

In the case of YouTube it can be said that this content is, mostly, the result of an oversight as opposed to a deliberate editorial decision. But that’s not always the case and both YouTube and Facebook dissemble somewhat when these things happen. The fact is that neither party wants to check everything.

The Mail, though, is unashamedly what it is: ferociously right wing, pro-Brexit and against (or markedly unenthusiastic about) much of what happens in the modern world. Is this a reason for banning it though?

It seems pretty clear in this instance that the Mail, led by editor-in-chief Paul Dacre, has got up the noses of Virgin Trains bosses (including Branson, who it doesn’t like anyway) as it has heavily criticised the train operator for its high charges and wriggling out of its commitment to run the East Coast train line because it can’t make the sort of money it thought it could. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is in the dock over this, as with much else.

The Virgin staff who object to the Mail may be as thin on the ground as a cheap day return ticket to Manchester bought on the day.

Time was when editorial decisions were left to editors, although they were ultimately influenced by owners. Some would argue that this began to change when media agencies began throwing their weight around, blurring the hitherto sacred line between editorial and advertising.

One of the reasons YouTube and Facebook get into so much trouble is that they don’t have editors, pretending that they’re not media owners but “platforms,” and therefore neutral in such matters. They may be but nobody else is.

So there’s an awful lot of hypocrisy floating around.

You May Also Like

advertising facebook featured Youtube

About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.


  1. ….the expensive one to Manchester.!!!
    Does no one from M’cr ever go South to an extremely expensive capital city?
    Or is it more….”how much to go look at the poor northerners..and I can’t get a Daily Mail?…Outrageous!”
    Once a LONDON Standard columnist always a LONDON Standard columnist!

  2. Branson is the wanker who got a New York hotel receptionist fired ‘cos she referred to him as Mr. Branson and not Sir Richard.