The UK government has dismissed claims that its new online portal is nothing but a propaganda tool, describing the accusations as 'plain silly'.
A report in The Sunday Times claimed that the new information portal, www.ukonline.gov.uk, was referred to as ‘pravda.com’ by civil servants, as it simply presented the government’s own spin on news.
Launched on Monday, the portal is designed to allow public online access to ‘cradle to the grave’ government services. It currently features six main information sections covering life stages such as ‘having a baby’ and ‘learning to drive’.
However, its news section, and the selection of stories appearing on it, has lead to suspicions that it is nothing but a Trojan horse for publicly-funded Labour Party political online broadcasts.
Visitors to the portal could be forgiven for wondering where the distinction has been made between ‘news’ and ‘government news’ as the majority of ‘news’ stories appear as summaries of government press releases.
The Conservatives cited the lack of coverage of events surrounding the Lord Chancellor’s office as an example of the portal ignoring ‘negatives’ for the government.
A shadow Cabinet Office spokesman said the website would be watched to see whether it crossed the line from government information to political propaganda. Earlier, shadow cabinet minister Andrew Lansley said that ‘in too many instances we are seeing Labour trying to distort the use of taxpayer-funded resources for party political purposes’.
A government spokesman replied: ‘The claim that taxpayers are paying for propaganda is plain silly. Firstly, the news on the site is non-political and those responsible for the content work to a strict code of conduct that all government information staff do.’
‘And if you look at the news section, it provides comprehensive links to opposition parties’ websites as well as other mainstream news outlets,’ he added. ‘Secondly, news information is only a relatively small part of the site. The prime aim is to create convenient, 24-hour access to government support and services at people’s fingertips.’