PR storm erupts over Brexit 'propaganda' screened on school digital noticeboards

A company has been caught in a public relations nightmare after conflicting sides in the Brexit debate seized on images shown in primary schools that purported to promote Prime Minister Boris Johnson's standpoint.

PR row erupted over images screened on school noticeboards
PR row erupted over images screened on school noticeboards

Anomaly Group – which produces content for display on digital noticeboards in schools – has come under fire for a series of images that critics have blasted as political propaganda.

Concerns were initially raised by constituents of the Labour MP for Walthamstow, Stella Creasy, after the content appeared in local primary schools.

Images included a Union Jack flag emblazoned with the phrase "He wants to unite the UK", as well as a slide showing the House of Commons overlaid with messages that Brexit was "supposed to happen on 29th March" and that Johnson "has promised Brexit would be done".

It emerged the images had been shown in schools across the country, as Anomaly screens content on 3,000 of the digital noticeboards nationwide.

Hundreds of people took to social media to lambast the content being shown in schools, with Anomaly Group shutting down its Twitter account following the controversy.

Among the critics was former Bellowhead musician John Spiers, who called the images "deeply sinister".

A spokesman for Waltham Forest Council told PRWeek that contracts for the digital school noticeboards are made on a "school by school basis", with no input from the local authority.

Schools using Anomaly can screen content created by the company – which ranges from healthy eating messages and mental-health information to internet safety advice – on their own equipment or using the company’s LCD noticeboards.

Phil Austin, managing director of Anomaly, said the slides had been taken out of context as part of a wider presentation, and that there was no attempt to promote Boris Johnson or Brexit in the slides.

"The slides were intended to explain citizenship to schoolchildren and promote British values in line with government initiatives, and they present a balanced view of the prime minister, including the fact that people have very different opinions of him," added Austin.

"We have been accused of promoting Brexit, or that this is part of a paid campaign on the prime minister’s behalf. This is absurd and has caused both myself and my staff an enormous amount of stress."

Austin insisted that the row was "based on a complete misinterpretation of the original slides", which he said were "devised with the purpose of educating young children about how parliament works".

Anomaly did not respond to requests to release the full slideshow of images.

Stella Creasy MP raised the issue in the House of Commons last week, when the prime minister responded that the issue was "news" to him.

Creasy said: "Schools were not asked for their consent before this video was shown and the refusal of the company to hand over the full document as well as aggressive approach to parents who asked to see it raises further questions about their conduct.

"That the prime minister didn’t answer the concerns parents raised with me will further trouble many and our ability to ensure our schools are propaganda-free zones."

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