Earlier this week, I noted that the Evening Standard, supposedly London’s evening newspaper, had not so much as peeped about recent revelations concerning driver and rider matching service Uber. The paper’s editor, the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, was, after all, most likely party to the Downing Street decision to shill for Uber when he was still Chancellor of the Exchequer.
And what is now clear is that, far from just ignoring bad news about Uber, the Standard is going much, much further - it is actively shilling for the company, in a manner that is clearly intended to make Uber a part of Londoners’ lives that they will not want to see taken away any time soon. The partisan behaviour is rapidly getting beyond occasional, and beyond a joke. There is no shortage of recent examples of this shamelessness.
Last month, for instance, Standard readers were told “Taxi-hailing giant Uber on Friday moved to improve its tarnished image by lending an ear to its drivers … A handful of drivers will meet with peers every week to gauge sentiment about new products or decisions that affect them, and then meet with senior Uber executives to fight their corner”.
“Fight their corner” my arse. And it got worse later that month with blatant PR spin “Taxi giant Uber’s new boss said on Thursday he wants to tighten its grip on public transport as it grapples huge losses … Chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said the firm could branch into buses and bikes. ‘I want to run the bus systems for a city,’ said Khosrowshahi at a conference”. Run a bus service? I wouldn’t let the SOB run the proverbial whelk stall.
And worse, with more PR spin “First it was cab rides and then restaurant food deliveries. Now Uber is making a surprise move into the hairdressing game - with an app that allows time-poor London women to summon a professional stylist to the comfort of their homes … The service promises that a customer will be under the blow-dryer within half an hour of tapping on their smartphone screen”. Advertorial. Masquerading as “tech”.
Could it get even worse? Toe-curlingly worse? Worse than the worst thesis submitted to the University of Worstness? You bet. “You might already know this, but it's St Patrick's Day this Saturday (March 17) which means everyone is trying to cash in on Ireland's patron saint … The latest culprit is our dearly beloved Uber Eats who have teamed up with Barburrito to create Guinness burritos”. That’s a straight-A f*** right off.
Can’t the Standard actually report news on Uber, rather than running promotional material and passing it off as “innovation”? Oh, hang on, yes there is! “Birmingham wants clarity from Uber on its business model as it decides whether to renew the taxi app’s license after granting a temporary extension”. But don’t worry, Uber fans, it’s not all bad news.
“Uber has made a series of changes to its business model in recent months, responding to requests from regulators, including the introduction of 24/7 telephone support and the proactive reporting of serious incidents to London’s police”. See? Everything is cool. Just ignore all those doomsayers pointing out that the app is universal, and the idea it’s been re-engineered just for London can’t be trusted unless the software is re-checked.
The Evening Standard - the press equivalent of “La la la I can’t hear you”. Thus the challenge for London’s cab trade - when the only local paper is in Uber’s pocket.