Dutch firm involved in Wall Street Journal scandal

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A Dutch firm is involved in a controversial practice to boost The Wall Street Journal's  circulation figures. According to British newspaper The Guardian, the consultancy Executive Learning Partnership ELP made a deal to boost the circulation in exchange for publicity.

In 2008, the European edition of the WSJ closed deals with companies like ELP which sponsored seminars for students. In exchange for publicity in The Wall Street Journal Europe, the firms bought thousands of copies of the business paper at a very low price for between one and five eurocents per copy and distributed them among students.

The circulation of cheap copies was added to the normal circulation figures, which although it is a controversial practice was approved of by the British Audit Bureau of Circulations. In 2010, 41 percent of the Wall Street Journal’s European circulation was sponsored in this way: That is 31,000 out of 75,000 copies.

In the same year, there was panic at the WSJ, which is part of Robert Murdoch's media empire, when the Executive Learning Partnership threatened to end the deal. The consultancy was the paper’s largest individual sponsor, responsible for 16 percent of the European circulation– 12,000 newspapers every day. The ELP was dissatisfied because it felt it was not getting enough publicity in the paper.

A new contract was drawn up in which the Wall Street Journal promised to print articles based on ELP material, without mentioning that the two organisations had a commercial relationship. The ELP was even allowed to place adverts free of charge. Protests by employees at the newspaper were ignored and a whistle blower was sacked at the beginning of the year. Since the revelations in the Guardian on Tuesday, the European publisher of the Wall Street Journal has announced it will no longer print the paper. The Audit Bureau says it will review the sales scheme.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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