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Watchdog disses City of Medway

Not a city, actually, says ASA

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The Advertising Standards Authority has earned its keep by ruling on the critical matter of whether Medway can describe itself as a city.

The answer is: no it can't – which is a bit of a blow for Medway Council, which had been punting its delights as the "City of Medway".

That description popped up in a leaflet promoting "Historic Rochester and Maritime Chatham". On the front was a logo declaring: "City of Medway – rich heritage, great future."

This prompted no less than one person to complain that Medway had breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 (Misleading advertising) because "the claim 'City of Medway' could not be substantiated and was misleading, because Medway was not a city".

Medway Council defended that "the word 'city' was defined in the English dictionary as any large town", and since the unholy fusion of Chatham, Gillingham, Rainham, Rochester and Strood contained more than 253,000 souls, it was certainly big and "most consumers would understand the word 'city' in their promotional material to mean a large urban settlement".

It further noted that "Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth Garden City also styled themselves as cities despite not holding city status from the Crown". The council added that in its case, it was "bidding for city status in 2012", in order to get the royal stamp of approval.

While a sympathetic ASA "acknowledged that the word 'city' might sometimes be used to signify a large town when used in conversation in a colloquial or informal way", it stressed that "a place in Britain was a city only if it had been granted that status by the British monarch".

Ruling that the council had indeed breached the CAP Code, the watchdog concluded that because Medway didn't have the proper paperwork from Liz 2, readers of the leaflet "were likely to be disappointed".

We at the El Reg Bootnotes bureau seriously doubt that readers of the leaflet would be more disappointed by Medway's lack of city status than by the place itself – something which could perhaps be mitigated by an enormous erection beside the river? ®

Bootnote

Rochester did used to be a real city, until "an administrative error" stripped it of the title.

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