A radio programme which is well worth listening to if you’re a Newcastle United fan is BBC Radio Four’s “the Lending Game,” a 40 minute look at Wonga’s controversial sponsorship of Newcastle United.
This is what the online blurb for the programme says:
“As Wonga moves into the mainstream with its sponsorship of Newcastle United, is the so-called payday lender responding to, or shaping, changing attitudes on money and morality? Chris Bowlby goes back to his teenage home on the Tyne to look at the rise of Wonga through the lives of the Toon Army.”
Amongst other things, it contains a fairly revealing interview with Newcastle United financial director, John Irving, who told Chris Bowlby that the clinching factor for working with Wonga was the company’s desire to “work with us on fans, the Academy and the Newcastle United Foundation,” who work with the Wonga customers of the future, youngsters from underprivileged families in the North East. However, the interview with Irving is abruptly halted later in the show by a female press officer (possibly Wendy Taylor) when the interviewer brings up controversial subject of former refusenik, Papiss Cisse, who was still in discussions with the club over wearing the shirt when the programme was being made.
As well as speaking to Wonga representatives, Newcastle United fans and others, An interview with a local Councillor also gives a very small glimpse in parts at how Wonga are buying their way into other local institutions such as the Evening Chronicle, silencing potential negative coverage in the paper (and also it’s sister paper the Journal) by throwing £30,000 into the Chronicle’s “
Since the latest appeal was announced on the 1st July, the Chronicle’s coverage of Wonga has changed markedly. For instance, as fellow blogger Mark Brophy pointed out in his ‘blog, “Wonga’s easy ride at the Chronicle” and “Local press criticism of Wonga just got more unlikely” the Chronicle’s last reference to Wonga as a “payday lender” occurred only three days after the abovementioned announcement on July 4th. From now on, journalists at the Chronicle may only refer to Wonga as a “Digital Finance Company,” and will have to give them a very easy ride generally. Like Mark Brophy, I’m checking. Getting back to the programme though, the editor of the Chronicle, Darren Thwaites, refused to be interviewed on the matter.
I listened to the programme whan it was first broadcast on Tuesday evening, however it is still available on the BBC iPlayer for the next six days or so, and it will also be rebroadcast on Sunday at 5.00pm.
The lending game on the BBC website.